Enhancing Tsunami Warning

In many rural and remote Northwest Pacific coastal areas, especially in British Columbia, emergency communication with populations remains severely challenged due to a number of physical, socio-economic and technical factors, including: rugged mountainous terrain and widely dispersed populations; restricted transportation (few roads and dependency on expensive marine and air transport); social and economic status; education and community development opportunities; transient populations that fluctuate according to seasonal variations and economic circumstances (tourism, fishing, logging, aquaculture), etc. From a communication perspective, outside of urban areas, there is uneven access to communication services, including basic fixed telephone, cellular, Internet and local broadcasting due to infrastructure development cost and physical distance from centres. Even where two-way radio (marine, commercial and public safety) and satellite telephone services are used, access to and quality of service is often affected by poor line-of-sight coverage due to coastal terrain.

Consequently, current emergency and warning communication arrangements must draw upon a combination of traditional and contemporary systems, but with limited opportunity to integrate and ensure effective and timely communication with all potentially affected populations during emergencies. New advances in information and communication technology (ICT) offer a number of options for addressing some of these issues, but many have never been designed or tested specifically for coordinated use in extreme emergency conditions.

Among the potentially more useful ICTs are satellite-based mobile systems that are not dependent upon large terrestrial infrastructures, are addressable, are becoming more affordable and widespread in use and offer cross-border service coverage throughout the Northwest Region.

New data exchange formats such as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) offer opportunities to better manage, integrate and target warning messages simultaneously across a wide variety of dissemination systems.

Further, considerable experience is being gained in innovative community-based last-mile ICT projects in other locations, especially in the post-2004 Tsunami regions of South Asia, that could help to inform the development of new initiatives in the Northwest Region.