Public-private disaster warning system tested

18/03/2011

Though early warning systems for disasters have been in place in the Pacific Islands for some years now, these have relied on mass media and local warning systems like sirens.<!--more-->The proliferation of mobile phones in the past few years (estimated at 80% penetration and up to 60% geographical coverage) have made it a prime candidate for being added to the list of disaster warning media. There have been some trials involving mass text broadcasting of impending natural disasters in the past few years but it has not been integrated into the overall disaster management system for the islands.

Warnings following last week’s Richter 9 undersea temblor off Japan and the tsunami it generated was text broadcast in PNG, thanks to an innovative public-private collaboration between the PNG Climate Change Office and Pacific wide private mobile operator Digicel.

Though the idea worked and has everyone praising the effort, it needs further testing because of problems related to system overload owing to too many texts going out simultaneously causing delayed delivery.

But indeed it’s a great start – and a fine instance of a public private collaboration.