Saturday, December 25, 2010
Lots of tweets about the little #Tsunami today but still none from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
by Larry Geller
Sometimes I wonder why it is such a battle to get today’s technology adopted in Hawaii. Take the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, for example. They are located in Hawaii. The rest of the world is happy to tweet when a tsunami occurs, but not them. You’d think they would be the first to embrace Twitter.
Sunday's quake came on the sixth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, when a huge tsunami triggered by an undersea quake off Indonesia killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean. [The Vancouver Sun, 7.3 quake triggers Pacific tsunami on disaster anniversary. 12/25/2010]
There were plenty of other tweets, but unless I missed it, still none from our own warning facility. The other tweets can be seen by searching on the hashtag #tsunami, but you get a flood of them as the retweets grow in number. What is needed is just one definitive tweet from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Their website gives public information, but that’s no warning. I don’t spend my time looking at their website all day. And I know that their bulletins contain this statement:
THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.
But still, it’s almost 2011 and they could get with it and tweet. Is that so unreasonable? It doesn’t even cost the taxpayers any money!!
Technologies come and technologies go, we have seen the cycle repeatedly. You can hardly fault PTWC for not following every fad! Is twitter here to stay? Who knows. Why invest effort into something that is gone a couple years from now.
The 140 char limit may also be a major issue with sending warnings like this. Can you get a proper warning into 140 chars? Or only a stripped down version with just enough information to panic everyone?
I agree with using modern communications tech to get warnings out. But Twitter? I wouldn't make that choice. SMS, RSS, and standard email make much more sense. I subscribe to the weather center RSS watch and warning feeds, much better source of information and perfectly readable on any smart phone or computer you happen to have at hand.
Thanks very much for your comment, but I do disagree. Probably the PTWC agrees with you, but I'm pretty firm in believing they should get with the technology that works.
SMS requires that the warning center have a list of phone numbers. Few people use RSS. Lots of people around the world know how to follow someone using Twitter and many are tuned in to Twitter for much of the day. People can check a website or governmental agency for details beyond 140 characters. The idea is to save lives.
Hundreds of thousands of people might get the message. It costs essentially nothing to use, is ubiquitous, and if it disappeared we'd simply be back where we are now.
Oh, on a different subject really, it would be cool if our state Civil Defense fixed up all the non-working sirens. Now, that costs real money. But they should do it.