Public Warning: Roles of policymakers, regulators, private sector & civil society


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Talk by Rohan Samarajiva at the Sahana Conference 2009, Colombo. Sri Lanka. March 24-25 2009.

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Public Warning: Roles of policymakers, regulators, private sector & civil society

  1. 1. Public Warning: Roles of policymakers, regulators, private sector & civil society Rohan Samarajiva Sahana 2009 Conference 24 - 25 March 2009, Colombo
  2. 2. Agenda The presence and absence of early warnings Organizational problems must be solved if the potential of early warning technologies is to be fully realized Overall division of labor Issuance of warning –Government Transmission of warning –Telecom operators Evacuation and response –First responders (government and other) Community preparedness –Community organizations Identification of specific tasks and responsibilities Comments on government role
  3. 3. Cyclone Sidr
  4. 4. Why declining deaths? Year Cyclone Strength Deaths 1970 Bhola Category 3 300-500,000 1970+21 Gorky Category 4 ~138,000 1970+37 Sidr Category 4 ~3,447
  5. 5. Completing the chain: Warning & training at the last mile Bangladesh reduced casualties (but not damage to property & livelihoods) through Communicating cyclone warnings to villages through HF radios and trained volunteers Easy-to-understand flag system at the last mile Cyclone shelters People who trust the warnings and evacuate Deaths from Sidr would have been less, if not for false tsunami warning and evacuation one month earlier (September 12th, 2007)
  6. 6. Cyclones & tsunamis Both effect the Bay of Bengal Tsunamigenic earthquakes in Sunda Trench every year since 2004 (except 2008) Difference is lead time 2-3 days for cyclones 90 mts to 6 hours for Bay of Bengal countries other than Indonesia Simply replicating Bangladesh is not enough Bangladesh model used 1990s communication technology Much has happened since (e.g. CB/SMS)
  7. 7. Physical and symbolic worlds, absent linking technologies Mediated interpersonal Symbolic world where action Physical world where originates hazards occur
  8. 8. The physical, the symbolic & their linking through ICTs, simplified Warnings (telecom & media) Mediated interpersonal TV, Radio & Physical world where Cell Symbolic world hazards occur broadcasts where action originates Warnings (telecom) More time to run; more lives saved
  9. 9. Early warning chain (standard form) Media & Telecom Operators National early Citizens warning First responders center
  10. 10. Early warning chain (community based; applicable to Last-Mile HazInfo project) Emergency Response Plan coordinator National early Media warning Govt 1st Responders center ERP1 ICT ERP2 Guard SCDMC Villagers ians From domestic & ERP3 international sources ERP4 SCDMC will never issue warnings; only alerts so that communities can be better prepared to receive the warning from government
  11. 11. ICTs used in reaching communities Remote Alarm Device GSM Mobile Phone CDMA Fixed Phone Addressable Radios for Emergency Very Small Aperture Alerts Terminals
  12. 12. Which work best? Eight modes (individual and combined) tested Reliability and effectiveness (composite measures) Complementary redundancy Comparison of Reliability and Effectiveness of ICT as a Warning Technology in a LM-HWS 0.75 AREA+MOP 0.71 0.75 AREA+FXP 0.89 0.43 AREA+RAD 0.71 ICT modes 0.05 AREA 0.59 0.24 MOP 0.27 0.26 FXP 0.47 0.09 RAD Effectiveness 0.04 VSAT Reliability Control Group 0.15
  13. 13. Community Forms of training that will work Levels of organizational strength Importance of emergency response plans Plan without simulation is no plan Simulation without plan cannot be done
  14. 14. Telecom and e-media are important, but are only part of the solution Ability to move information at the speed of light can increase time to act to reduce risks of disasters Many organizational problems must be solved At level of community At level of first responders At national early warning center Among the carriers of alerts and warnings Effective warning must be complemented by preparedness plans, evacuation capabilities, etc. If we are to save livelihoods and property, in addition to lives, a lot more has to be done on risk reduction
  15. 15. Early warning: who should do what? Early warning is a classic public good Government must supply Early warning is based on incomplete, probabilistic Government must information and judgment take the responsibility of issuing warning/alert 75% of tsunami warnings in the Pacific are false; false warnings can be dangerous Government gets hazard information from external or internal sources Regional warning cannot be simply transmitted Judgment must be applied before national warnings/alerts are issued for specific areas
  16. 16. Early warning: who should do what? Operators of telecom networks and electronic media (public-sector and private-sector) must transmit the message to first responders and citizens Ground-level first responders must play the key role in evacuations and response Community preparedness is important if warnings community-based are to save lives organizations (e.g., Sarvodaya) are best at this Includes improving the ability of communities to receive warnings and alerts
  17. 17. Responsibilities at warning center and in communication to media, etc. Media &Telecom Operators National early Citizens warning First responders center
  18. 18. Early Warning Center Media & Telcos Protocols for fast decision making re issuance of warnings/alerts [Internal to government] Procedure for issuing large number of warnings/alerts quickly and reliably using multiple media, including acknowledgements and redundancy [Decision is government’s; but best to use Common Alerting Protocol based single-input, multi-output, multi- language software solution]
  19. 19. Media, telcos, first responders to public Procedures for verification and acknowledgement [jointly worked out with government] Standard formats, including rules on what is communicated in what form [jointly worked out with government] Rules for use of cell broadcasts [jointly worked out with government] Government first responders to public [procedures appropriate for different settings decided locally] Other first responders (e.g., Sarvodaya, hotels) to public [procedures appropriate for different settings decided locally]
  20. 20. Prior planning essential Wide variety of procedures to be decided Important that they be formulated and tried out prior to a disaster Improvisation in the midst of a crisis is inappropriate Updating of procedures at regular intervals Drills and training of critical actors, also at regular intervals
  21. 21. Lessons for the last mile Media &Telecom Operators National early Citizens warning First responders center
  22. 22. Community preparedness Each community is unique emergency response plans cannot be the same Importance of emergency response plans Plan without simulation is no plan Simulation without plan cannot be done Plans need to be updated regularly Training and awareness raising needed Primarily for communities, though government may exercise oversight if it has adequate expertise and resources Communities can learn from each other if the environment is created
  23. 23. A mild critique of government priorities Too often, government looks at the problem in terms of Laws and regulations, instead of ground-level action (that is then codified into practical legal frameworks) Sri Lanka Disaster Management Act passed after the tsunami has grandiose schemes of committees reporting to committees reporting to councils But the Act does not include provisions for funding from the Consolidated Fund unable to do much without external help
  24. 24. A mild critique of government priorities Too often government units get entangled in turf battles and lose sight of what the overall object is Disasters cross administrative boundaries In Sri Lanka, geological expertise is at Geological Survey and Mines Bureau; tsunami hazard information authority is Met Department; tide gauges are under National Aquatic Resources Authority; warning authority is Disaster Management Center; telecom operators are governed by Telecom Regulatory Commission; media are under Media Ministry Essential to develop non-territorial approaches to manage unavoidable turf issues Disasters are too big for one government department, let alone government as a whole need to work with everyone to save lives, livelihoods and property
  25. 25. A mild critique of government priorities There is too much emphasis on the international and not enough on the community level Community level work is hard; much harder than attending international workshops But that is the key to risk reduction
  26. 26. Take aways Disasters are too big for any one entity the problem is large enough for everyone to contribute Government must take the lead in creating the right environment for productive cooperation by all Responsibilities must be assigned based on core competencies Plans are not plans absent simulation We need to look at what works, not what is on paper
  27. 27. Way forward Disseminate lessons to improve public warning systems More trials in specific contexts if needed Improve community based response In Sri Lanka, 1,000 Sarvodaya villages 15,000 Sarvodaya villages 30,000 villages Develop sustainable public-private models of sustaining community training and dissemination of hazard information Improve multi-lingual, multi-modal Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)
  28. 28. Our collaboration with Sahana Risk Reduction Mitigation Sahana now Prevention Recovery Moved into the “pre” & warning Sahana space at inception Preparedness Response LIRNEasia + Sahana work Hazardous event Warning Key role for telecom & electronic media LIRNEasia space