Early Warning Archives — LIRNEasia

The warning towers erected after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami are said to be dysfunctional, according to Reuters: Thailand’s warning system includes warning towers, a network of detection buoys in the sea and public announcement systems. “Around 70 to 80 percent, or around 2,000 pieces, need to be taken care of. We set up this system since 2006 so it needs to be maintained,” Kobchai Boonyaorana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, told Reuters, referring to various equipment. “Batteries need to be changed,” he added, “I’ve ordered that this needs to be done urgently particularly in the southern region which is a tourist region. There might be some places where the equipment is damaged but not many places.
We at LIRNEasia have been promoting cell broadcasting for a long time. It is immune to congestion, message over it can be specific to location; and it does not require prior registration of numbers. It has thousands of “channels” and can therefore handle multiple languages, including those of tourists who are visiting. Therefore, we are very happy that Canada, which has supported our disaster risk reduction research is the latest country to get behind cell broadcasting: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today directed all wireless service providers to implement a wireless public alerting system on their LTE (long-term evolution) networks by April, 2018. This system will allow emergency management officials, such as fire marshals and police agencies, to warn Canadians on their mobile devices of dangers to life and property.
The Times of India has many critics on account of its pursuit of moolah, but still, it is a serious newspaper. UNISDR is a serious organization that is part of the UN system. One assumes the Senior Communication Officer of UNSIDR is not a flake. But the story below causes me to rethink all those assumptions. Brigitte Leoni, senior communication officer of the UNISDR, writes about the importance of Maya’s hurricane early warning system that has not only helped in averting severe disaster casualties but also helped in development of modern tools.

Lessons from the disaster

Posted on May 20, 2016  /  0 Comments

On May 14th that I retweeted a satellite image of a weather system over Sri Lanka. The tweet said “WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs. Public cautioned over flash floods & landslides.” The hazard was public knowledge, contrary to some claims now being made. WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs.

10 years of work presented at SEI-Asia

Posted on January 15, 2016  /  0 Comments

I was invited to share my research with Stockholm Environment Institute Asia office in Bangkok. The intention was for SEI-Asia Researchers to possibly identify any areas for collaboration. I themed my talk on “ICT4D action research in Early Warning Systems”. It has been 10 years since I first began my research work in December of 2005. It was important to first establish an abstract definition of an EWS.
In 2005 January I asked my friend, Pete Anderson, to take a risk and come to Sri Lanka to participate in the expert forum we had convened on the 26th of January to develop policy recommendations for effective early warning. At that moment I did not have a budget line to pay out of, but I said I’ll find the money to reimburse him, and I did. That first visit is described in AQ, the Simon Fraser University alumni magazine, along with some photos we took on the trip down the coast with Asantha Sirimanne, one of the journalists who first reported the tragedy: Within days of the 2004 catastrophic tsunami that struck South Asia, killing more than 250,000 people, Anderson travelled to Sri Lanka and paced the broken shorelines in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. There he formed ideas on how to help local communities devise and implement their own emergency communications strategies, eventually collaborating with local organizations to develop the Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination Project, designed to improve the capabilities of the country when disaster strikes. The pilot project generated a capacity-building experience that is leading to community communications improvements.
This was published in Ceylon Today but they appear to have some kind of lag built into their online publication. So we are sharing the reflective column by Nalaka Gunawardene from his website. Whatever the hazard, early warnings would work well when adequate technological capability combines with proper decision-making and dissemination systems, and prepared communities. In the case of tsunamis, an effective warning and mitigation system means people living in vulnerable coastal areas know how to respond when a potentially destructive tsunami may be approaching. Tsunami warning systems are made up of three components.
The 2014 LIRNEasia Disaster Risk Reduction Lecture focused on all aspects of the early warning ‘chain’ and what advances have been made in the ten years since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. On the whole the message that was conveyed was very positive. Tremendous progress has been made both in the science of understanding when a tsunami has been generated and in the deployment of instruments throughout the world’s oceans, including the Indian Ocean. The purpose of all this effort and investment is getting people out of harm’s way. That means that warnings, including evacuation orders, have to be effectively communicated to all those in harm’s way; that evacuation must be orderly; and most importantly, that the evacuees take the appropriate action willingly and with knowledge.
From today’s Financial Times: When asked to explain the importance of CAP, I find it helpful to contrast today’s media and disaster-management environments with those that existed at the time of the 1978 east coast cyclone where around 250,000 people were displaced (about the same as by the 2004 tsunami), but only around 900 died (as against over 30,000 in 2004). Then, there was only one electronic media organisation, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. It had six channels, but the news and information on all six channels originated from one news room (I worked there in 1978). We easily coordinated with the Department of Meteorology, the sole entity responsible for cyclone warnings. On the ground there were far fewer electronic media devices than now, but people like the late GA Mr Anthonymuttu were able to effectively move people out of harm’s way.
As we prepare for the IOTX events that start on the 16th of June in Negombo, I was reminded of the first expert consultation we conducted, exactly one month after the tsunami. That was a productive meeting, catalyzing, among other things, the USD 71 million plus dam safety project that has made large swaths of our country safe from inland tsunamis. Thank you to all who worked with us along the way.
Since we run the DRR lecture on a shoestring, there will be no paid media ads. We are grateful for publicity. If forewarned is forearmed and you are in the NGO sector specifically in DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) there’s a lecture on Disaster Risk Reduction Public Lecture: Regional Readiness. Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction.
I must have been busy last February. That is the only possible explanation for why I neglected to blog about an article Nalaka Gunawardene and I wrote, reflecting on the experience of providing effective disaster warnings, nine years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) adds a new dimension to disaster warnings. Having many information sources, dissemination channels and access devices is certainly better than few or none. However, the resulting cacophony makes it difficult to achieve a coherent and coordinated response.
Join us at the CAP Code-fest REGISTER NOW   IT Industry teaming with Emergency Management Experts to experimentaly develop exciting warning/alerting software solutions. ANYONE CAN JOIN the CAP Code-fest and it is Free to Attend. Experiment with interchanging warning/alerting information with disparate software solutions and then build new interfaces between them. Play with various domain specific software designs, XML-based interoperable data structure, information interchanging Application Programming Interfaces (OData APIs), Databases, or simply be a Lurker and give a helping hand with researching concepts. A fun activity with outcomes expected to contribute towards IT tools in SAVING LIVES.
JOIN US IN SRI LANKA – Indian Ocean Tsunami 10th Year Anniversary (IOTX) – CAP WORKSHOP DOWNLOAD THE CAP WORKSHOP FLYER These are exciting times for alerting enabled by the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard (ITU-T Recommendation X.1303), especially as major online media and technology companies continue their support and promotion of CAP. One theme is the emergent support for CAP-enabled alerting through advertising by online media. In that vein, we expect this Workshop will discuss the development of harmonized design guidelines for such emergency alerting, perhaps including aspects such as colours, fonts, languages, and sets of symbols. Earthquake and volcano alerting are also expected to be Workshop topics, as well as updates on progress for some of the many CAP implementations already in production and others in active development.
We are not even sure how many have died. But we are sure that too many have died as result of the strong winds that lashed the west coast the past few days. I could write a long essay. But instead, I will link to what we wrote after the mini cyclone of November 2011 off Matara-Weligama that saw the loss of too many lives and the usual calls for investigation and blame. The old post that includes outline of a solution.
People ask me where cell broadcasting has been implemented. I’ve said Netherlands. But it actually had been implemented quietly in the US two years ago. The ad campaign to publicize it is being run only now. “Many people do not realize that they carry a potentially life-saving tool with them in their pockets or purses every day,” said W.