Commentary: Padang Tests Tsunami Early Warning System


SEPTEMBER 09, 2016

As part of three years' action research under the PEER Science Scheme, the Bandung Institute of Technology, or ITB, facilitated the implementation of a focus group discussion and a table top exercise in Padang, West Sumatra, on Sept. 1 and 2.

The activities were co-hosted by the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), the Meteorology, Climatology Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the Padang Local Disaster Management Agency (BPBD). Around 80 participants were involved, including representatives of agencies of the Padang city government, local nongovernmental organizations, local media and sub-districts' disaster preparedness communities. The exercise focused on the communication chain between the BMKG and BPBD Padang's emergency operation center.

The exercise was of great importance, given that tsunamis have had tremendous destructive impacts on coastal communities in the Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia also has a high frequency of these natural disasters, having recorded 25 massive earthquakes and nine devastating tsunamis between 1990 and 2008 – on average once every two years, including the tsunami that hit Aceh and other parts of Sumatra Island in 2004.

Under the leadership of Dr. Harkunti P. Rahayu, the ITB research team has produced network modeling of organizations and communities in receiving and sending tsunami early warning information. Based on the research results, the scenario of a table top exercise in Padang was developed as a means to verify the research in providing a detailed downstream aspect to tsunami early warnings. The focus group discussion and table top exercise also provided crucial input for updating and improving tsunami early warnings and emergency response standard operating procedures in Padang, which were previously regulated under Mayoral Regulation 14/2010.

The ITB's PEER Science research team highlighted the need to reduce the time for consultation between the BPBD emergency operation center and the mayor's office in providing evacuation orders, given the potential and advancement of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS). The system is currently capable of providing tsunami alerts and recommendations for local governments to issue evacuation orders as early as five minutes after the Bulletin 1 announcement. At the same time, there is a need to further enhance coordination and communication between regional offices of the BMKG and the BPBD's emergency operation center in issuing evacuation orders and concluding Bulletin 4, which indicates the end of a tsunami warning and the start of an emergency response.

In addition, the research provided the opportunity and a venue for local nongovernment organizations and disaster preparedness communities and similar groups to leverage their potential as intermediary actors in designing the city's tsunami early warning system and emergency response. The research was also able to pinpoint local innovation on the dissemination of early warning system information, such as the use of social media groups, mosques, school communities, smartphone applications for tsunami evacuation guidance and sirens that have been installed at various public and private buildings.

The recommendation has been communicated and received by the mayor of Padang on Sept. 4. As a result, the city was ready to test the endorsed multi-stakeholder and downstream tsunami early warning system during the 2016 Indian Ocean Wave Exercise (IOWAVE16). Public movement were concentrated in the Nurul Haq tsunami escape building on Sept. 7, the first day of IOWAVE16. To date, clearly Padang has made progress towards an end-to-end tsunami warning chain, which can become a benchmark for other cities in Indonesia and the Indian Ocean region.

The series of focus group discussions and table top exercises is part of IOWave16, a global periodic tsunami exercise being organized by the Intergovernmental Coordinating Group for Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has designated the BMKG as a tsunami service provider for Indian Ocean countries, together with Australia and India.

The IOWave16 exercise that took place in Indonesia on Sept. 7 involved collaboration between the BMKG and the BNPB, with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Center, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, with the support of the Japanese government.

The IOWave rehearsal is held periodically by the Intergovernmental Coordinating Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Unlike the previous rehearsals in 2009, 2011, and 2014, which focused on upstream threats rather than observation, preparation and delivery of early warnings, this time the focus was downstream on early warning dissemination to the areas and mobilization readiness and evacuation response in the field.

The BNPB formulated a tsunami master plan as a program guide and tsunami disaster risk reduction activities in 2012. This master plan has four pillars: early warning systems, evacuation, preparedness and disaster resilience industry.

Indonesia will be using the lessons from the IOWave16 exercise to enhance its tsunami master plan. This is a reference document for planning tsunami-related mechanisms, programs and activities.

Indonesia also expects to take the lessons forward to World Tsunami Awareness Day, which will take place during the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific regional workshop on tsunamis, as well as an international conference on tsunami preparedness that is scheduled to take place towards the end of this year.

Harkunti P. Rahayu is a lecturer at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), chair of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System and vice chair of the Indonesian Disaster Experts Association.

Mizan B. F. Bisri is a doctoral student at Kobe University in Japan and researcher at the ITB.