Tsunami warning system proposed

February 24, 2005, vol. 32, no. 4
By Marianne Meadahl

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A paper that sets out a framework for a new early warning system for Sri Lanka, co-authored by a SFU disaster communication expert, will be submitted to the country's president Feb. 26, two months after a devastating tsunami swept over south Asia.

Peter Anderson spent eight days in Sri Lanka with officials from the Vanguard Foundation and Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies (LIRNE) Asia working on the submission. He says its focus is not so much on technology but rather on the management and community processes that need to be put in place for a warning system to be effective.

“Our work integrates existing systems, but deals with the need for co-ordination and the importance of capacity building in the country,” says Anderson, who utilized some of his research findings from his recent study of B.C.'s tsunami early warning system in preparing recommendations for Sri Lanka. He will continue to research ways to improve warning systems for remote and mobile populations along B.C.'s coast.

“What the Sri Lankans lack is an ongoing national disaster reduction strategy, resulting in an emergency program that is not effectively integrated,” he says.

“Even if they developed a new all-hazards early warning system, there isn't an adequate process in place to disseminate information country wide. Our input focuses on what needs to be built into the broader community risk management process.”

Besides his role in drafting the concept paper, Anderson participated in community consultations that followed, as well as subsequent videoconferences with Sri Lankan and global experts after arriving home in early February. While in Sri Lanka, Anderson witnessed some of the devastation caused by the catastrophic event. “It was overwhelming,” Anderson says. “But I was impressed by the resiliency of the people.”

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