13 Dec ASIA TSUNAMI A COMMUNICATIONS DISASTER
By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
“We tried to do what we could,” said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Honolulu center. “We don’t have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world.” This quote was reported by Reuters on Dec. 29 three days after the catastrophic tsunami hit Asia.
It is difficult to comprehend that by the time the dust settles in post-tsunami Asia, the body count will be roughly double Kauai’s entire population. Why? It wasn’t that no one knew the tsunami was coming. It was just that the people who had the critical information couldn’t get it to the people who needed it. And even if they had, the level of awareness about the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis and what to do in the case of a tsunami was reportedly very low.
Natural disasters happen but their impacts can be diminished significantly when effective communications systems are in place.
As a result of the Asia tsunami disaster, Reuters reported that “ India became the first nation stricken by the Indian Ocean tsunami to vow on Wednesday to set up an early warning system, despite the expense and the fact it may not be needed for a generation or longer.” Though much of the Pacific Ocean is covered by a tsunami monitoring system, Reuters said that along with India, “Japan, one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, also announced plans to build a system next year to monitor tsunamis in a wide area of the north and west Pacific currently not covered — including parts of Indonesia — and said this could expand to cover the Indian Ocean.”
We hope so. India’s new system will cost about $29 million. The cost of having had no communications mechanism in place for this tsunami is immeasurable. Our hearts and prayers go out to the countries and survivors that have lost so much, and to the courageous volunteers who will be working tirelessly on recovery efforts for many months to come.