Comment: ආපදා කළමණාකරනය හරියට කරන්න නම් නිසි ආණ්ඩුකරණයක් ඕනැ

I have written about disaster early warnings on many occasions  during the past decade (see 2014 example). I have likened it to running a relay race. In a relay, several runners have to carry the baton and the last runner needs to complete the course. Likewise, in disaster early warnings, several entities – ranging from scientific to administrative ones – need to be involved and the message needs to be identified, clarified and disseminated fast.

Good communications form the life blood of this kind of ‘relay’. Warnings require rapid evaluation of disaster situation, quick decision making upon assessing the risks involved, followed by rapid dissemination of the decision made. Disaster warning is both a science and an art: those involved have to work with imperfect information, many variables and yet use their best judgement. Mistakes can and do happen at times, leading to occasional false alarms.

In the aftermath of the heavy monsoonal rains in late May 2017, southern Sri Lanka experienced the worst floods in 14 years. The floods and landslides affected 15 districts (out of 25), killed at least 208 and left a further 78 people missing. As of 3 June 2017, some 698,289 people were affected, 2,093 houses completely destroyed, and 11,056 houses were partially damaged.

Did the Department of Meteorology and Disaster Management Centre (DMC) fail to give adequate warnings of the impending hydro-meteorological hazard? There has been much public discussion about this. Lankadeepa daily newspaper asked me for a comment, which they published in their issue of 7 June 2017.

I was asked to focus on the use of ICTs in delivering disaster early warnings.

Infographic courtesy Sunday Observer, 4 June 2017

නව මාධ්‍ය සහ නව තාක්ෂණය යොදා ගෙන ආපදාවලට පෙර සාර්ථක අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් ක්‍රියාත්මක වීම ගැන ලෝකයේ උදාහරණ මොනවාද?

ආපදාවලින් සමස්ත සමාජය හැකි තරම් ප්‍රවේශම් කර ගැනීමට කරන ක්‍රමීය සැළසුම්කරණයට, ආපදා අවදානම් අවම කිරීම (disaster risk reduction) යයි කියනවා. එහි වැදගත් කොටසක් තමයි ආපදා අනතුරු ඇඟවීම්.

සොබාවික උවදුරු (hazards) මානව සමාජයන්ට හානි කරන විට එයට ආපදා (disasters) යයි කියනවා. ආපදාවකට පෙර, ආපදාව දිග හැරෙන විට ආ ඉන් පසුව ටික කලක් යන තුරු යන තුන් අදියරේදීම ප්‍රශස්ත සන්නිවේදනවලට මාහැඟි මෙහෙවරක් ඉටු කළ හැකියි.

ආපදා අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් (disaster early warnings) යනු මහජනයාගේ ආරක්ෂාව සැළසීමට රජයකට තිබෙන වගකීම් සමුදායෙන් ඉතා වැදගත් එකක්. රටක  ජාතික ආරක්ෂාව සළසනවාට සමාන්තර වැදගත්කමක් මා එහි දකිනවා.

අනතුරු ඇඟවීම හරිහැටි කිරීමට, බහුවිධ උවදුරු ගැන විද්‍යාත්මකව නිතිපතා දත්ත එකතු කිරීම, ඒවා ඉක්මනින් විශ්ලේෂණය කිරීම හා ඒ මත පදනම් වී තීරණ ගැනීම අයත් වනවා.

මෙරට විවිධ ආපදා පිළිබඳව අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් කිරීමේ වගකීම නොයෙක් රාජ්‍ය ආයතනවලට නිල වශයෙන් පවරා තිබෙනවා. සුනාමි හා කුණාටු ගැන නිල වගකීම ඇත්තේ කාලගුණ විද්‍යා දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවට.

යම් ආපදාවක් ළඟ එන බව සෑහෙන දුරට තහවුරු කර ගත් පසු, එයින් බලපෑමට ලක් වන ප්‍රජාවන් සියල්ලට එය හැකි ඉක්මනින් දැනුම් දී, අවශ්‍ය නම් ඉවත් වීමට නිර්දේශ කළ යුතුයි. මෙකී භාරදූර කාරය කළ හැක්කේ රජයට පමණයි. ස්වේච්ඡා ආයතනවලට එය ප්‍රතිරාවය කරන්න පුළුවන්. ඒත් මුල් තීරණ අදාල රාජ්‍ය ආයතනයක් විසින්ම ගත යුතුයි.

අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් බෙදා හරින විට මේ මූලික සාධක කිහිපයක් සළකා බැලිය යුතුයි.

අනතුරක සේයාව පහළ වූ විට මූලික දැනුම්දීමක් (alert) හා එය වඩාත් තහවුරු වූ විට අනතුරු ඇඟවීමක් (warning) කළ යුතුයි.

ඉවත්වීමේ තීරණය (evacuation) සාවධානව ගත යුත්තක්. ඉවත්ව යන මාර්ග හා එක් රැස් විය යුතු තැන් ගැන කල් තබා ප්‍රජාව දැනුවත් කර තිබිය යුතුයි. මේ සඳහා කලින් කලට ආපදා පෙරහුරු (disaster drills) පැවැත්වීම ඉතා ප්‍රයෝජනවත්.

ආපදා පිළිබඳව මූලික දැනුම්දීම් හා අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් කඩිනමිනුත් කාර්යක්ෂමවත් සමාජගත කරන්නට එක් සන්නිවේදන ක්‍රමයක් වෙනුවට එක වර සන්නිවේදන ක්‍රමවේද කීපයක් යොදා ගත යුතුයි. එකකින් මග හැරෙන ජනයා තව ක්‍රමයකින් හෝ ළඟා වීමට. ටෙලිවිෂන්, රේඩියෝ, ජංගම දුරකථන මෙයට යොදා ගත හැකියි.

අමෙරිකාව හා ජපානය වැනි රටවල සියලු රේඩියෝ හා ටෙලිවිෂන් සේවාවන්වල එදිනෙදා විකාශයන් මදකට බාධා කොට, ඒවා හරහා රජයේ නිසි බලධරයන් විසින් එකවර ආපදා අනතුරු ඇඟවීම් විකාශ කිරීමේ තාක්ෂණමය හා පරිපාලනමය සූදානම තිබෙනවා.

මීට අමතරව cell broadcasting නම් තාක්ෂණයක් මෑතදී දියුණු කොට තිබෙනවා. එයින් ජංගම දුරකථන ජාලයක් හරහා නිශ්චිත ප්‍රදේශවල සිටින ජංගම ග්‍රාහකයන් පමණක් ඉලක්ක කොට ආපදාවක් ගැන SMS කෙටි පනිවුඩ ඉක්මනින් යැවිය හැකියි. හදිසි අවස්ථාවල ජංගම දුරකථන ජාලයට දරා ගන්න බැරි තරම් සන්නිවේදන වැඩි වූ විටෙක (network overload) පවා මේ ක්‍රමයට යවන පණිවුඩ අවසාන ඉලක්කයට යනවා. හැබැයි ඒවා ලබන ජංගම දුරකථනවල බැටරි බලය තිබිය යුතුයි.

මේ cell broadcasting ක්‍රමවේදය මෙරටට අදාල කරන සැටි ගැන ලර්න් ඒෂියා පර්යේෂනායතනය පර්යේෂන කොට තිබෙනවා.

4G දක්වා නූතන දුරකථන තාක්ෂණය යොදා ගැනෙන, මිලියන් 25කට වඩා සක්‍රිය ජංගම දුරකථන ගිනුම් තිබෙන අපේ රටේ මේ තාක්ෂණය ආපදා අවස්ථාවල මීට වඩා උපක්‍රමශීලී ලෙස යොදා ගත යුතුමයි.

අපේ රටේ තිබෙන්නේ නවීන තාක්ෂණය නැතිකමක් නොවේ. තිබෙන නවීන තාක්ෂණයන් කාර්යක්ෂමව හා නිසි පරිදි මෙහෙයවා වැඩ ගැනීමට පරිපාලනමය සූදානම හා තීරණ ගැනීමේ ධාරිතාව මදි වීමයි. මේවා ආණ්ඩුකරණය දුර්වලවීමේ ලක්ෂණ ලෙසයි මා දකින්නේ. ආපදා කළමණාකරනය හරියට කරන්න නම් නිසි ආණ්ඩුකරණයක් තිබීම තීරණාත්මකයි.

නාලක ගුණවර්ධන, විද්‍යා ලේඛක හා මාධ්‍ය පර්යේෂක

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Crying Wolf in the Global Village? Managing Disaster Early Warnings in the Age of Social Media

Participants of SHER (Science, Health, Environment & Risk) Communication - Role of S&T Communication in Disaster Management and Community Preparedness held in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 8-9 Dec 2015

Participants of SHER (Science, Health, Environment & Risk) Communication – Role of S&T Communication in Disaster Management and Community Preparedness held in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 8-9 Dec 2015

On 8 – 9 December 2015, I attended and spoke at the Asian Regional Workshop on “SHER (Science, Health, Environment & Risk) Communication: Role of S&T Communication in Disaster Management and Community Preparedness” held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

It was organised by the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia (AASSA) in collaboration with the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI), Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST) and the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in Indonesia.

The workshop brought together around 25 participants, most of them scientists researching or engaged in publication communication of science, technology and health related topics. I was one of two journalists in that gathering, having been nominated by the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka (NAASL).

I drew on over 25 years of journalistic and science communication experience, during which time I have worked with disaster managers and researchers, and also co-edited a book, Communicating Disasters: An Asian Regional Handbook (2007).

Nalaka Gunawardene speaking at Science, Health, Environment & Risk Communication Asian regional workshop held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 8-9 Dec 2015

Nalaka Gunawardene speaking at Science, Health, Environment & Risk Communication Asian regional workshop held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 8-9 Dec 2015

The challenge in disaster early warnings is to make the best possible decisions quickly using imperfect information. With lives and livelihoods at stake, there is much pressure to get it right. But one can’t be timely and perfectly accurate at the same time.

We have come a long way since the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of December 2004 caught Indian Ocean countries by surprise. Many of the over 230,000 people killed that day could have been saved by timely coastal evacuations.

The good news is that advances in science and communications technology, greater international cooperation, and revamped national systems have vastly improved tsunami early warnings during the past decade. However, some critical gaps and challenges remain.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) was set up in 2005 under UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Over USD 400 million has been invested in state of the art equipment for rapid detection and assessment. However, the system’s overall effectiveness is limited by poor local infrastructure and lack of preparedness. Some countries also lack efficient decision-making for issuing national level warnings based on regionally provided rapid assessments.

Warnings must reach communities at risk early enough for action. False warnings can cause major economic losses and reduce compliance with future evacuation orders. Only governments can balance these factors. It is important that there be clearer protocols within governments to consider the best available information and make the necessary decisions quickly.

Now, the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is making this delicate balance even more difficult. To remain effective in the always-connected and chattering Global Village, disaster managers have to rethink their engagement strategies.

Controlled release of information is no longer an option for governments. In the age of 24/7 news channels and social media, many people will learn of breaking disasters independently of official sources. Some social media users will also express their views instantly – and not always accurately.

How can this multiplicity of information sources and peddlers be harnessed in the best public interest? What are the policy options for governments, and responsibilities for technical experts? How to nurture public trust, the ‘lubricant’ that helps move the wheels of law and order – as well as public safety – in the right direction?

As a case study, I looked at what happened on 11 April 2012, when an 8.6-magnitude quake occurred beneath the ocean floor southwest of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Several Asian countries issued quick warnings and some also ordered coastal evacuations. For example, Thai authorities shut down the Phuket International Airport, while Chennai port in southern India was closed for a few hours. In Sri Lanka, panic and chaos ensued.

In the end, the quake did not generate a tsunami (not all such quakes do) – but it highlighted weaknesses in the covering the ‘last mile’ in disseminating early warnings clearly and efficiently.

Speakers on ‘ICT Applications for Disaster Prevention and Treatment’ in Jakarta, Indonesia, 8-9 Dec 2015

Speakers on ‘ICT Applications for Disaster Prevention and Treatment’ in Jakarta, Indonesia, 8-9 Dec 2015

See also: Nurturing Public Trust in Times of Crisis: Reflections on April 11 Tsunami Warning. Groundviews.org 26 April 2012

I concluded: Unless governments communicate in a timely and authoritative manner during crises, that vacuum will be filled by multiple voices. Some of these may be speculative, or mischievously false, causing confusion and panic.

My full PowerPoint:

 

Breaking News on a Restless Planet: Covering Disasters in a Networked Society

Communicating Disasters: ZiF Conference in Bielefeld

How do we cope with a warming planet while living in an increasingly WikiLeakable world? Exactly one year ago, I explored this in my talk given at the University of Colombo during the LEAF Conference.

As I reflected then: “We live in a crisis-ridden world where we have to cope with multiple emergencies unfolding at the same time, impacting us on different fronts. This illustration captures three of them: crisis in biodiversity, man-made climate change, and the new reality of living in a rapidly WikiLeakable world — what I called the Global Glass House.”

I returned to this theme and explored it further this week when giving a keynote address at the Bielefeld University in Germany. I was participating in their international and inter-disciplinary conference on “Dealing with the Disaster of Others”, 26-28 January 2012. The conference was the culmination of a year-long research project on this theme carried out at the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF).

I also built on ideas initially discussed in my 2007 book, Communicating Disasters, which was part of the reference material used during th ZiF research project.

Nalaka Gunawardene speaks at ZiF Conference on Communicating Disasters, Bielefeld, Germany: 27 Jan 2012

Here’s the Summary (Abstract) of my talk. PowerPoint slides below.

Breaking News on a Restless Planet: Covering Disasters in a Networked Society

by Nalaka Gunawardene
Science Writer, Blogger & Columnist; Director – TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP)

Communicating disasters — before, during and after they happen — is fraught with many challenges. The increased volume and flow of information, enabled by the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs), fills some gaps — but not all. Other critical elements such as institution building, training and awareness raising are needed at all levels to create societies that are better informed and prepared.

The news media, driven by their quest for what is new, true and interesting, can be useful allies for disaster managers. But the nexus between these two groups has always been contentious, and the acceleration of the news cycle has made it more so. Having to sustain 24/7 coverage for their fragmented and distracted audiences places enormous pressures on news media to break news first — and reflect later. In this scenario, how can empathetic, ethical and balanced reporting happen?

As disasters increase in frequency and intensity partly due to climate change, mainstream media practitioners across Asia struggle to keep up. Disasters are more drawn out (e.g. Pakistan floods, 2010 & Thailand floods, 2011), geographically scattered (Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004) and economically devastating (Tohoku/Fukushima, 2011) than before. This stretches the capacities and resources of many news organisations. Saturation coverage of unfolding disasters can also cause ‘compassion fatigue’ and apathy in audiences.

In today’s networked society, news media are no longer the sole gatherers or distributors of news. Without the trappings and inertia of the institutionalised media, citizen journalists are quick to adopt ICT tools and platforms. What does this mean for communicating disasters that requires care and sensitivity? In which ways can we find synergy between mainstream and new/social media to better serve the public interest on a warming planet? What value-additions can the mainstream media still offer to the coverage of disasters near and far?

We examine these and other larger questions with reference to recent disasters in Asia.

Here’s the PPT:

Reporting disasters: How to keep a cool head when all hell breaks loose

WCSJ London

News by definition looks for the exception. What goes right, and according to plan, is hardly news. Deviations, aberrations and accidents hit the news.

It’s the same with disasters. Reducing a hazard or averting a disaster does not make the news; when that hazard turns into a disaster, that typically tops the news. Yet, as we discussed during a session at the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists held in London from June 30 – July 2, 2009, both aspects are important — and both present many challenges to journalists and the media.

The session, titled Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka, saw three science journalists share their own experiences and insights in covering two major disasters in Asia. Richard Stone (Asia News Editor, Science) and Hujun Li (senior science writer with Caijing magazine, China) both spoke about covering the Sichuan earthquake that occurred on 12 May 2008. I spoke on my experiences in covering the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004. The session was chaired by the veteran (and affable) British journalist Tim Radford, who has been The Guardian‘s arts editor, literary editor and science editor.

Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka: L to R: Hujun Li, Nalaka Gunawardene and Richard Stone

Covering a disaster from Sichuan to Sri Lanka: L to R: Hujun Li, Nalaka Gunawardene and Richard Stone

I recalled the post-tsunami media coverage in two phases — breaking news phase (first 7 – 10 days) and the aftermath, which lasted for months. When the news broke on a lazy Sunday morning, ‘Tsunami’ was a completely alien term for most media professionals in Sri Lanka. In newspaper offices, as well as radio and TV studios, journalists suddenly had to explain to their audiences what had happened, where and how. This required journalists to quickly educate themselves, and track down geologists and oceanographers to obtain expert interpretation of the unfolding events. We than had to distill it in non-technical terms for our audiences.

My involvement in this phase was as a regular ‘TV pundit’ and commentator on live TV broadcasts of MTV Channels, Sri Lanka’s largest and most popular broadcast network. Night after night on live TV, we talked about the basics of tsunami and earthquakes, and summed up the latest information on what had taken place. We also acknowledged the limits of science -– for example, despite advances in science and technology, there still was no way of predicting earthquakes in advance.

One question we simply couldn’t answer was frequently raised by thousands of people who lost their loved ones or homes: why did it happen now, here — and to us? Was it an act of God? Was it mass scale karma? As science journalists, we didn’t want to get into these debates — we had to be sensitive when public emotions were running high.

There were enough topics during the breaking news phase that had a scientific angle. Clinically cold as it sounded, the mass deaths required the safe, proper and fast burial of bodies with identities established. The survivors had to be provided shelter, food, safe drinking water and counselling. And when rumours were spreading on the possibility of further tsunamis, both officials and public needed credible information from trusted, competent sources.

Tsunami waves lashing Kalutara beach on western Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004: satellite image courtesy DigitalGlobe Quickbird satellite, http://www.digitalglobe.com

Tsunami waves lashing Kalutara beach on western Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004: satellite image courtesy DigitalGlobe Quickbird satellite, http://www.digitalglobe.com

After the breaking news phase passed, we had more time to pursue specific stories and angles related to the tsunami. As an environmentally sensitive journalist, I was naturally interested in how the killer waves had impacted coastal ecosystems. Then I heard some interesting news reports – on how some elements of Nature had buffered certain locations from Nature’s own fury.

Within days, such news emerged from almost all Tsunami-affected countries. They talked about how coral reefs, mangroves and sand dunes had helped protect some communities or resorts by acting as ‘natural barriers’ against the Tsunami waves. These had not only saved many lives but, in some cases, also reduced property damage. Scientists already knew about this phenomenon, called the ‘greenbelt effect’. Mangroves, coral reefs and sand dunes may not fully block out tsunamis or cyclones, but they can often reduce their impact.

Researching this led to the production of TVE Asia Pacific‘s regional TV series called The Greenbelt Reports, which was filmed at a dozen tsunami impacted locations in South and Southeast Asia. By the time we released the series in December 2006, sufficient time had passed for the affected countries to derive environmental lessons of the tsunami.

The other big story I closely followed was on early warnings for rapid on-set disasters like tsunamis. Some believed that the tsunami caught Indian Ocean rim countries entirely by surprise, but that wasn’t quite true. While the countries of South and Southeast Asia were largely unprepared to act on the tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii, who had detected the extraordinary seismic activity, did issued a tsunami warning one hour after the undersea quake off western Sumatra. This was received at Sri Lanka’s government-run seismological centre in good time, but went unheeded: no one reacted with the swiftness such information warranted. Had a local warning been issued, timely coastal evacuation could have saved thousands.

Views from Ground Zero of several disasters...

Views from Ground Zero of several disasters...

Part of my sustained coverage focused on logistical, technological and socio-cultural challenges in delivering timely, credible and effective early warnings to communities at risk. I did this by writing opinion essays on SciDev.Net and elsewhere, partnering in the HazInfo action research project in Sri Lanka, and leading the Communicating Disasters Asian regional project. A lasting outcome is the multi-author book on Communicating Disasters that I co-edited in December 2007.

All this shows the many and varied science or development stories that journalists can find in the aftermath of disasters. Some of these are obvious and widely covered. Others need to be unearthed and researched involving months of hard work and considerable resources. Revisiting the scenes of disasters, and talking to the affected people weeks or months after the event, often brings up new dimensions and insights.

My own advice to science journalists was that they should leave the strictly political stories to general news reporters, and instead concentrate on the more technical or less self-evident facets in a disaster. During discussion, senior journalist Daniel Nelson suggested that all disaster stories are inherently political as they deal with social disparities and inequalities. I fully agreed that a strict separation of such social issues and science stories wasn’t possible or desirable. However, science journalists are well equipped to sniff out stories that aren’t obviously covered by all members of the media pack that descends on Ground Zero. Someone needs to go beyond body counts and aid appeals to ask the hard questions.

As Hujun Li said recalling the post-Sichuan quake experience, “Politics and science are like twins – we can’t separate the two. What we as science journalists can do is to gather scientific evidence and opinion before we critique official policies or practices.”

Another question we were asked was how journalists can deal with emotions when they are surrounded by so much death and destruction in disaster scenes. Reference was made to trauma that some reporters experience in such situations.

I said: “We are human beings first and journalists next, so it’s entirely normal for us to be affected by what is happening all around us. On more than one occasion in the days following the tsunami, I spoke on live television with a lump in my throat; I know of presenters who broke down on the air when emotions overwhelmed them.”

SciDev.Net blog post: Finding the science in the midst of disaster

And now...the sequels

And now...the sequels

Summing up, Tim Radford emphasized the need for the media to take more interest in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), which basically means preventing disasters or minimising the effects of disasters.

“DRR is perhaps less ‘sexy’ for the media, as it involves lots of policies and practices sustained over time,” he said. “But the potential to do public good through these interventions is enormous.”

As Tim reminded us, disasters already exact a terrible and enduring toll on the poorest countries. This is set to get worse as human numbers increase and climate change causes extreme weather and creates other adverse impacts. Living with climate change would require sustained investments in DRR at every level.

Read Tim Radford on how disasters hit the poor the hardest (The Guardian, 22 May 2009).

The stories are out there to be captured, analysed and communicated. In the coming years, the best stories may well turn out to be on disasters averted or minimised

Sleeping easy along the shore: Going the Last Mile with hazard warnings

creating-disaster-resilience-everywhere.jpg

October 8 is the International Day for Disaster Reduction. The United Nations system observes the day ‘to raise the profile of disaster risk reduction, and encourage every citizen and government to take part in building more resilient communities and nations’.

Disaster risk reduction (abbreviated as DRR) is the common term for many and varied techniques that focus on preventing or minimising the effects of disasters. DRR measures either seek to reduce the likelihood of a disaster occurring, or strengthen the people’s ability to respond to it.

DRR is not just another lofty piece of developmentspeak. Unlike many other development measures that are full of cold statistics and/or hot air, this one directly (and quietly) saves lives, jobs and properties.

And it gives people peace of mind – we can’t put a value on that. That was the point I made in a blog post written in December 2007, on the third anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Taking the personal example of J A Malani, an ordinary Sri Lankan woman living in Hambantota, on the island’s southern coast, I talked about how she has found peace of mind from a DRR initiative.

‘Evaluating Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination Project’ (HazInfo project for short) was an action research project by LIRNEasia to find out how communication technology and training can be used to safeguard grassroots communities from disasters. It involved Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest development organisation, and several other partners including my own TVE Asia Pacific. It was supported by International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada.

Recently, IDRC’s inhouse series ‘Research that Matters’ has published an article about the project. Titled “For Easy Sleep Along the Shore: Making Hazard Warnings More Effective” its blurb reads: “In Sri Lanka, a grassroots pilot study combines advanced communication technologies with local volunteer networks to alert coastal villages to danger coming from the sea.”

The article has adapted a lot of the information and quotes I originally compiled for a project introductory note in April 2006.

The outcome of the project’s first phase, which ended in mid 2007, is well documented. My own reflective essay on this project is included as a chapter in our book Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book, published by TVE Asia Pacific and UNDP in December 2007.

TVE Asia Pacific also made a short video film in late 2007. Called The Long Last Mile , it can be viewed on YouTube in two parts:

The Long Last Mile, part 1 of 2:

The Long Last Mile, part 2 of 2:

The recent IDRC article ends with this para: “A related challenge concerns the shortness of any society’s attention span. In the absence of frequent crises and alerts, how can a nation — or even a village — sustain the continuing levels of preparedness essential to ensure that, when the next big wave comes rolling in and the sirens sound, its people will have the motivation and the capacity to act? The follow-up project seeks to address this worry by preparing the hotels and villages to respond to different types of hazards, rather than only to the relatively rare tsunamis.”

Watch this space.

Download pdf of IDRC’s Research That Matters profile on Last Mile Hazard Warning Project