Experts from four government agencies are meeting this week to review the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for tsunami aiming to effectively communicate to the public in shorter time of the threat of a tsunami after an earthquake.
Called the ‘lead time’—the period between an earthquake and the communicating of information of whether there is a tsunami or not, the agencies hope to reduce ‘lead time’ to go below 15 minutes.
The SOP was developed in 2010 following the 2007 earthquake and the tsunami in the Western Province. Attempts to review it in 2021 was hindered by COVID-19, however, finally the review is happening this week with further improvements anticipated in the revised SOP.
Officials from the MET Office, Geological Survey Division in the Ministry of Mines, ICT personnel from Ministry of Finance and the National Disaster Management Office are reviewing the SOP.
Director of MET David Hiriasia told SBMOnline that they anticipated further improvements following the review.
All four agencies have different roles. When an earthquake shakes it is often detected or recorded by GSD in the Ministry of Mines, that information is then sent and stored by the ICT in the Ministry of Finance which, then distributed to regional network and MET. MET then do threat analysis and determines whether there is a tsunami threat or not, whilst the coordination of warning arrangement is done through NDMO
Hiriasia said one of their priorities in the review is also to find out what agency is responsible for what.
“On warning side, it is important we improve lead time the information goes out to the public. On coverage, we make sure as much as possible a lot of people know the information soon after an earthquake,” he said.
Usually following an earthquake there are two hazards, one, the effects of the earthquake like landslides or fallen buildings and tsunami.
Typically warning is issued by MET and the whole coordination of response comes under NDMO.
Hiriasia highlighted that communication is very critical.
He said they are working to improve on this by engaging with more people and communities through the government and NGOs.
So how does information of an earthquake is passed?
Soon after an earthquake, an automatic email is sent from ICT at Lengakiki to all stakeholders including MET. MET then do threat analysis and determines whether there is a threat of a tsunami or not by advising the public.
According to Hiriasia, big earthquakes that are more than 7 points on the richter scale
often come with tsunami threats.
He said they are also incorporating faster ways to receive information on earthquakes.
“The faster the information on earthquake we receive, the faster information will go out,” he said.
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