Thursday, October 25, 2007

The early warning system...

You might, or might not, have heard about the tsunami early warning system that foreign governments have spent millions on in order to prepare countries surrounding the Indian Ocean of potential tsunamis. It's supposed to work like this: very high tech equipment located in the ocean monitors seismic activity which is then relayed to satellites which are monitored and that information is sent very quickly to governments so that they can warn their people.

Let me tell you how it works in practice: very high tech equipment located in the ocean monitors seismic activity which is then relayed to satellites which are monitored and that information is beamed directly to CNN and BBC. Some watchful person in the the U.S. or UK sends us a message - today it happened to be my sister - saying that there's a tsunami warning. I look up from my computer and say, 'hey, did you know that there was an earthquake today and that there's a tsunami warning?' Everyone in the office stares at each other blankly. (Mind you, a deadly all of water could be hurtling toward the office at that very minute). I then search google for the latest news to find out if a tsunami warning has actually been issued.

Now, what's wrong with this picture? The people who are most vulnerable to a tsunami striking are not going to be getting calls from either the U.S. or UK to tell them about it. The people who are the most vulnerable are not going to be able to 'google' it. They are completely oblivious. So - call me crazy but I think the early warning system is the Oxford English definition of an 'abysmal failure'. The Indonesian government did issue a tsunami warning - according to the press - but to whom? I think this is a key question they should be asking themselves...is it really crucial that CNN and BBC know about it? Or maybe they should try thinking of a system that could alert those living in low-lying coastal areas? Of course, I'm not a scientist so I could be wrong.

1 comment:

Stefan Geens said...

Your play on "abysmal failure" -- that's a pun, right, or was it a spelling mistake?:-)