Friday, February 20, 2009


Maybe Hawaii should ask Indonesia for assistance with tsunami warning system

by Larry Geller

The report of delays in completing a tsunami early warning system for Hawaii are distressing ( breaking news, Hawaii's tsunami network upgrades face delays, 2/20/2009):

Scientists have upgraded Hawaii's seismic monitors after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami prompted the U.S. government to improve the nation's tsunami warning systems.

But some of the upgrades are merely temporary and haven't been made to the highest standards. Slow-moving bureaucracy has delayed improvements in some cases.

Charles McCreery, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's director, initially thought the upgrades, which started in 2005, would take two or two and a half years.

He says the center is now "more than halfway done" with improvements but additional work remains.

What are we waiting for? Another Asian or Alaskan earthquake and possible tsunami?

Meanwhile, Indonesia has activated its early warning system, as we reported in January: Indonesia starts up a tsunami early warning system—made with German, not Hawaii assistance.

The technology appears to be different. Since the sensors installed in Indonesia are under water, they would probably not be subject to the complications of the land-based seismometers mentioned in the Advertiser article, though the land-based units are probably appropriate to detecting Big Island earthquakes. I’m not trying to suggest that the technology chosen by Indonesia is appropriate for Hawaii.

Even Sri Lanka has been working on a high-tech solution to their early-warning needs: Sri Lanka gets cell phone based early warning system.

Again, I’m not questioning the choice of technology, only Hawaii’s can’t do attitude.

It’s 2009, folks, and the early warning system is still not in place, some sirens don’t work, and so on. The Advertiser article reminds us that the work began in 2005. It will all be more difficult to fund in the current economic climate, why couldn’t we have completed what was needed earlier? High-tech Hawaii? Innovation Hawaii?

Civil defense is a state function, so I hope the administration will address this ongoing failure before it’s too late and people are killed or injured due to lack of timely warnings.



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