OTAS the Tsunami Warning System

In his December 30, 2004 column Bob Cringely proposed a Tsunami warning system based on existing data and collection systems. In the January 7 column he reported that, prompted by his column, a software developer and an earth scientist had begun work on the Open Tsunami Alerting System (OTAS) using public seismic and geophysical data. Most recently his January 14 column reports further progress on this early warning and detection system. This column contains a few more interesting tidbits of data including information from one UK reader who reported that:

“The infrastructure for a global tsunami warning system already exists. The system set up to monitor nuclear testing is capable of, detected, and pinpointed the South Asian tsunami as it happened. The monitoring headquarters is in Berkshire, England, and the head of the station had made suggestions in the past that its role be expanded to include earthquake and tsunami monitoring. Better still, the necessary treaties are in place to allow immediate two-way communication between the centre and affected countries. Indeed, they carry an up to date list of contact numbers for key people. What’s missing is political will. With that in place organisations, public information, and training can be put in place to make sure any warning is responded to on the ground.”

It has been stated before that one reason politicians are apprehensive about early warning systems is that if they should fail the politicians could be held responsible for the failure which would likely end their careers. I ask if preventable deaths are the legacy they wish to leave instead? While Cringely argues that the government often spends far too much to develop systems that do not meet user requirements I suggest that the Emergency Alert System (EAS) which grew out of NOAA’s tornado warning system is clearly an example of a workable government system for warning people about an imminent danger. Surely something similar could be designed using OTAS as the input system. In any event check otu the following links regarding OTAS:

The OTAS Wiki
The OTAS Software Development Page

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