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Disaster-management information system expert Peter Anderson is returning to Sri Lanka in February to help assess and develop new tsunami early-warning systems, much as he does in B.C.

Disaster-management information system expert Peter Anderson is returning to Sri Lanka in February to help assess and develop new tsunami early-warning systems, much as he does in B.C.

Disaster master focusing on tsunamis here and overseas

January 25, 2007

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The 2004 South Asian tsunami has triggered new approaches to handling emergency warnings—in B.C., as well as countries affected by the disaster.

SFU's disaster-management information guru, communication professor Peter Anderson, is working with emergency officials to assess warning needs and test new techniques in B.C. coastal communities as well as 32 tsunami-affected villages in Sri Lanka—where he is set to return in early February. He is also collaborating with a new Indian Ocean tsunami-warning system project centred in Thailand.

In B.C., where a tsunami watch was temporarily issued Jan. 12 for parts of the north and central coast (following an earthquake near Japan), Anderson is part of the tsunami-integrated preparedness project. He has developed a tool kit of warning system options for communities to incorporate into their own response plans, and is also exploring the efficacy of satellite radio and other technologies for regions with limited cell phone range and Internet service.

Anderson will meet with communities in the Queen Charlotte Islands before returning to Sri Lanka, where he will complete an evaluation of the region's Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination project and assist in drafting its next phase, to include as many as 2,000 villages.

The aim is to identify the optimum combinations of technology, training and community mobilization to help improve Sri Lankans' capacity to deal with hazards. It will eventually include more than 15,000 villages.

The work is proceeding slowly in some regions, given internal conflicts and a tourism-starved economy, but "the resiliency of the people is just amazing," he says.

Anderson visited Sri Lanka following the tsunami and, with Sri Lankan colleagues, developed a public consultation process with communities setting out options for local warning processes—the starting point for the Last Mile project.

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