03 January 2005

Tsunami Contingency Planning and Early Warning...

The latest catastrophic Tsunami natural disaster as a result of a huge undersea earthquake reminds us of the need for effective contingency planning and preparedness. The warning signs and detection devices can only go so far in helping with the potential threats that our planet throws our way.

This article by Beldeu Singh compares the sequence of events and makes the point for a more effective early warning system.

Firstly, it is common knowledge that undersea earthquakes cause tsunamis and these waves can come ashore within minutes of nearby earthquakes. An undersea earthquake must have been picked up by some seismic center in the region but it failed to issue. This inaction exacerbated the death toll because most people in this region do no know what to do in the event of a "felt" earthquake in low lying coastal areas. There was little or no preparation by the Governments in the region for catastrophic calamities caused by convulsions of nature with the exception of an incipient disaster relief systems more suitable for monsoon floods. Typical in Asian management culture is the lack of contingency planning or planning for the uncertain outcomes of events or worst case scenario planning. Structured long term models with comprehensive plans, strategies, systems, logistics and training is also not a norm. The management speaks more of tactical responses and reactions after the tragedy.

On a planet continually being challenged by all types of natural catastrophic events there seems to be only one real way to mitigate the potential losses. Intelligence from early warning systems are only a part of the answer. Emergency Preparedness and Response is the other proactive strategy for dealing with the risk of future threats of this magnitude by mother nature.

Beldeu makes the comparison of this event to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Half a century later, in spite of advances in seismic science and a vast network of modern communications supported by satellite technology, the world relives another day of infamy in the month of December that bears some semblance to the attack on Pearl Harbour. Only this time, it was not failure of collection or analysis of data but one of communication and proper response. In fact, the situation as it unfolded in the region devastated by the tsunami shows that there was no organized response to protect people from the impending impact of the tsunami.

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