Early Warning Archives — Page 3 of 3


It is disappointing to see sirens still being promoted despite the demonstrated problems. And I think Kogami was present at the HazInfo dissemination event we held in Jakarta. Patra Rina Dewi, director of the Tsunami Alert Community (Kogami), a nongovernmental organisation working on disaster mitigation training for communities, said the knowledge people most need is whether an earthquake has the potential to become a tsunami. The current standard for this is an earthquake that occurs less than ten kilometres below the seafloor and is recorded as more than seven on the Richter scale. “But this kind of information should be translated into easy information for the people,” said Patra.
The tsunami occurred within three months of LIRNEasia’s founding. We were lucky. No one in LIRNEasia was directly affected, though there were several “what ifs”. It changed our research program for sure. We did three projects directly connected to the tsunami: NEWS:SL which was a study on how Sri Lanka could establish a robust, effective national early warning system (Note to the government: it’s not too late to implement even now), when we figured there would be no first-best solution, the HazInfo project that sought to understand how communities at the last mile could prepare themselves to receive government warning and respond appropriately, and a little pilot on how communities could be given voice called Webhamuva.
The following quote in a recent article by a Sri Lankan disaster management expert in the government newspaper caught my attention: There was a time gap of nearly three hours between the time Indonesia was affected and the time that Sri Lanka was affected and also the coastline was hit by the wave at different times. Even within Sri Lanka, the Eastern shores were hit first, which gradually spread to North, South and finally the West. The country simply did not have an early warning and dissemination system. This was the first I had heard anyone in government admit even indirectly that many lives could have been saved if the government had communicated to the media the information it received from the Navy and STF on the East Coast. I thank the writer for that.

Sri Lanka warning tower fails

Posted on October 17, 2009  /  0 Comments

It is asked in one of Sri Lanka’s aphorisms whether the sword that is not ready for war is to be used for cutting kos (jack fruit)? That is the same question we have to ask the Ministry of Disaster Management about its warning towers. When oh when, will the Ministry realize that these towers are a colossal waste of money and put its weight behind DEWN and cell broadcasting? But in Sri Lanka’s southern coastal village of Godawaya, a tsunami warning tower failed to emit a siren. Local fishermen who had stayed home to take part waited for a few hours and decided to go to work.
In developing countries such as Sri Lanka, when government has no resources to deliver the essential public good of early warnings, alternate methods must be advocated – that was the idea of the HazInfo research project, where civil society in villages were given training to respond appropriately to alerts received from the Hazard Information Hub located at the Sarvodaya Head Office in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. The technology and organizational structure of the HazInfo last-mile hazard warning system proved to work as designed and drew valuable lessons for a full scale implementation. However, the major dilemma was in finding resources to sustain the system. The Hoteliers’ Association of Sri Lanka agreed to obtain services from Sarvodaya for a fee to train and certify the hotel staff in disaster response. This fee would go towards the OPEX of the HazInfo emergency response planning component and operationalize a 24/7/365 Hazard Information Hub for issuing alerts; but to kick start the endeavor a nominal CAPEX is required.

Lessons of 2004 tsunami used in Samoa

Posted on October 3, 2009  /  2 Comments

A report on the response to the tsunami that hit Samoa shows that preparedness and evacuation planning saved lives even though they had barely eight minutes after the warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have enough distance from the unstable Sunda Trench and therefore are likely to have more time to organize evacuations. For Indonesia and Thailand, unfortunately, the time will be less. The Pacific islands were so close to the epicentre of the earthquake that a wall of water hit Samoa within eight minutes after the Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii sent its first bulletin Tuesday. Several Samoans said they heard no sirens or warnings, but fled as soon as they were woken up by the earthquake.
SciDev, a prestigious science communication channel, has featured our cell broadcast report, the first of the Mobile 2.0 reports to be released. Texting short messages through mobile phones could help in early warning of natural disasters in the Maldives, says a new report. The technology, called cell broadcasting, helps to deliver messages simultaneously to multiple users in a specified area. “In the case of the Maldives, if an early warning is introduced, it must be able to reach all of the outlying islands including tourists on resorts.
CB [cell broadcasting] is an intrinsic feature of GSM, UMTS and IS 95 CDMA networks, and is thus available in the two Maldivian networks. But it must be activated. Most handsets are capable of receiving CB messages but the feature must be turned on. However, in the early stages, getting customers to turn on the feature could be an effective way of educating them of mobile-based public warning. Following stakeholder meetings that included sharing of information on the ongoing CB channel-standardization work of Study Group 2 of the Telecommunication Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) and experience in attempting to use CB for public warning in Sri Lanka, the recommendations to TAM are being finalized.

The Interview with Rohan Samarajiva

Posted on November 4, 2008  /  0 Comments

This episode of The Interview features an interview with Executive Director, Rohan Samarajiva on telecom regulations, disaster mitigation, preparedness and early warning, mobile phone usage at the BOP and a number of other technology related issues. The Interview – Rohan Samarajiva from CPA on Vimeo.
From 13-15 October, 2008, The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with support from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction – Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning (UNISDR-PPEW) and the United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) organized the Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Workshop on “Disaster Management and Space Technology – Bridging the Gap” in Bonn, Germany. LIRNEasia researcher, Natasha Udu-gama was one of 134 participants representing 49 countries. The 3-day UN-SPIDER  workshop was notable in that it featured a number of German and international presentations on the themes of Session 1: “Space technology in support of risk and disaster management”, Session 2: “Vulnerability and Risk Assessment”, Session 3: “Contributions of space-based technologies to existing and proposed early warning systems”, and Session 4: “Disaster Medicine, Telemedicine and Integrated Vector Management (IVM)”. Natasha Udu-gama presented on “Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination” during Session 3 highlighting the usage of WorldSpace Addressable Radios for Emergency Alerts (AREA) systems as appropriate for last-mile hazard information dissemination in the LIRNEasia pilot project “Evaluating Last-Mile Hazard Information Dissemination”. The presentation also presented sustainability models for WorldSpace in Bangladesh and Indonesia, while demonstrating […]
One and a half years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the government of Sri Lanka stated that it had obtained funds for three warning towers and was on track to build 25 more by the second anniversary: The Ministry has already received funds from UNESCAP to build three tsunami warning towers in the Eastern, Northern and Southern Provinces and hopes to build another 25 towers by December 26 [2006] to mark the second anniversary of the disaster, according to the Times. We were skeptical and we were right. By September 12th, 2007, the day of the last false warning and erroneous government evacuation order, one tower was up. The one tower did not work. So now, one and a half years after that false announcement about 25 towers (and almost four years after the tsunami), we have a Cabinet decision: Cabinet approved a memorandum submitted by the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe and the Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils, Janaka Bandara Tennekoon, to accept the revised proposal to expand the Emergency Response Systems (ERS) currently in place by upgrading and establishing 14 fire and rescue stations, in addition to the 18 stations developed […]
Mark Wood, who among other things coordinates the group that is working harmonizing the address space for cell broadcasts on mobiles at ITU-T, had an intensive discussion with representatives of Sri Lanka mobile operators at a meeting organized at very short notice by LIRNEasia on 2nd of October 2008. He was on his way back from a successful visit to Male to speak at a cell broadcasting workshop co-organized by LIRNEasia and the Telecom Authority of Maldives. Why is harmonization important? Coastal areas are vulnerable to rapid-onset, broad-spectrum hazards such as tsunamis and cyclones. Coastal areas also attract large numbers of tourists.

Early warning and/or mangroves

Posted on September 18, 2008  /  1 Comments

Few weeks back, I was in Davos, with Peter Anderson and Natasha Udu-gama.  Nuwan Waidyanatha, the man who carried the HazInfo Last Mile Project on his broad shoulders was there in spirit too.  We were there to tell the world about the project and learn about how early warning fits into the big picture of disaster risk reduction. And we did.  Strangely enough, I learned more from one off-print lying on a table than the entire whole conference on the subject that brought me to Davos.

m-Health project kickoff

Posted on August 1, 2008  /  2 Comments

The real-time biosurveillance program is a pilot on the broader concepts of mobile health data surveillance for unusual patterns. Mobile Health is best defined by Krishnan Ganapathy’s exclusive published on Mobileactive. A partner meeting will take place at the Indian Institute of Technology Rural Technology and Business Incubator on Monday (04-Aug-2008) to discuss the way forward on the multi partner m-Health project. This initial meeting follows the e-India event on e-Health in Delhi where stakeholders are coming together to discuss lessons on similar action research. The partner planning meet program will bring together the project partners and give everyone the opportunity to hear each other out in relations to their roles and responsibilities.

No Early Warning Signs for China

Posted on May 13, 2008  /  1 Comments

Is accurate early warning possible for earthquakes? Chinese authorities have said they did not pick up any warning signs ahead of Monday’s earthquake. “Monitoring before the earthquake did not detect any macroscopic abnormalities, and did not catch any relevant information,” Deng Changwen, deputy head of Sichuan province’s earthquake department, said. AlJazeera.net | No Early Warning
LIRNEasia and Vanguard Foundation, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka National Committee of Large Dams, have conducted an Expert Consultation as the basis for developing a concept paper on an Early Warning System for Dam Related Hazards. Most of the Sri Lankan experts on dam management and safety were invited to this event. The event was kicked off by Chandra Jayaratne, Director of the Vanguard Foundation and Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of LIRNEasia with a welcome address and opening remarks. The first presentation titled, Nineteen years later, what lessons have been learnt from the Kantale breach (and what changes have been implemented)? by D W R Weerakoon, Former Director General of Irrigation and Secretary, Presidential Commission on the Kantale Dam Breach.