is a legend in Japan of a man who saved a village from a tsunami's
The man lived on the mountainside above the town. One day he
looked down the mountain, and then, to his family's dismay,
lit his ricefields on
fire. His family tried to convince him to put the flames out
and he said "Do not put these fires out." Some villagers
below noticed the flames,and when they were not put out they
ran up the mountain side to help.When they arrived they were
confused to see the old man and his family doing nothing to
stop the flames. More shock followed when he told them
"Do not put these fires out." Even more villagers
came yet to help when
they saw the fires continue to burn. Each time a new group of
people showed up, they would receive the same response.
- Soon, the entire
village was on the mountainside trying to convince the old man
to put the fires out. All of a sudden, they all turned and looked
down below. They watched in silence as their town was torn to
a raging wall of water. At
first they were struck with shock and sadness.
Then they realized not a single one of their neighbors had been
lost in the devastation thanks to the old man's foresight."
there is not a similar old man on all the edges of the Pacific
Ocean to save his neighbors from incoming killer waves. The
countries of the Pacific Ocean rim, however, have come up
with warning systems to
give their citizens enough time to reach safety in the event
of a tsunami.
This page will examine the main system of warning for those
countries which border the Pacific Ocean. This page will also
show some examples of what different countries ask of their
citizens in a tsunami.
Main Warning System
mission is "detect, locate, and determine the magnitude of
potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes occurring in the Pacific Basin
or its immediate margins" (Tsunami
Warning System) . This is done in conjunction
with international geological groups along with the National
Earthquake Information Center. When
seismic conditions could possibly enerate tsunami activity, the
PTWC can predict where the wave is headed, how tall and fast it
is, and when it will reach determined populations. With these types
of predictions, scientists are able to warn endangered communities
ahead of time.
a tsunami is detected that is large enough to alert every part of
the Pacific Ocean Basin. It
is definitely in everyone's best interest to heed these and any
tsunami warnings if they are ever heard.
instruments and processes used to detect seismic and tsunami activity
in the Pacific region are so sophisticated they detected the 2004
Indian Ocean Tsunami before it hit land. (There is more information
about that on the page "Indian
Ocean Warnings" )
How the System Works
the West Coast of North America, an array of six buoys are
deployed in Pacific waters. Completed in 2001, the Deep Ocean
Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) Project is the system
which would sound the clarion which might potentially save millions
of inhabitants, were a tsunami to occur in the Pacific Ocean.
Each buoy is anchored to the Ocean floor in deep water and consists
of sensors and antennae which provide, via satellite, real-time
data in two modes of oceanic and atmospheric conditions. These
are standard and event modes. In standard mode, average sea
surface height is routinely reported every 15 minutes, 24 hours
a day. If on-board software detects an event, the system goes
into event mode, in which “15-second values are transmitted
during the initial few minutes, followed by 1-minute averages. The
system returns to standard transmission after 4 hours of 1-minute
real-time transmissions if no further events are detected.”
The cost per unit for these buoys is around a quarter-million dollars,
with much higher costs coming into play when one considers deployment,
maintenance, and system operation. However, the benefit of
a successful warning given in the event of a threat could far outweigh
any of these expenditures. Since the tragic events of December 26th,
2004, the United States congress has been evaluating a plan which
would increase by 32 the number of DART buoys deployed.
How to Behave During a Tsunami Warning
- Here in the Midwest,
we grew up with tornado drills. The local sirens would blare,
and we would all climb under our desks or go to the basement.
For people living on the banks of the Pacific Ocean, tsunami
drills may not be out of the question. Here are what some governments
suggest to their citizens:
In the United States.
people are told to become familiar with and follow signs like
this one in the event of a Tsunami warning:
is an educational poster from the Philippines. Click on it to
see a large, readable, learnable version:
Philippine Institute of Volconology and Seismology
Japan, the system is so sensitive that citizens will know within
3 minutes of tsunami detection that a wave is headed their way.
Alerts go out over TV and radio. The beachfront has loudspeakers
like that pictured below to get people moving to higher ground as
quickly as possible.
Will Keep You Safe
- Tsunamis in the Pacific
regions would never get away being undetected. Once waves are detected,
people on land are warned. Residents are offered the following
Stay well informed on what to do before a tsunami hits, make sure
family knows what to do.
Take all warnings seriously! This includes sirens, broadcasts, and
phenomena such as an unusually quick drop in the ocean levels around
Head for higher ground immediately. The
higher the better. Tell everyone you
see to follow you.
Do not come down until it has been announced that the danger is
- The scientists keeping
an eye on the Pacific Ocean know exactly what they
- are doing, and that
is keeping a lot of people out of harm's way. Inhabitants of
these regions need to make sure they understand and trust the Pacific
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for those living in the Indian
Because these countries are are not as financially or technologically
well-off as nations bordering the Pacific Ocean, the world witnessed
happens when disaster warning systems are not put in place before
All that can be done now to prevent such devastation in the
future is to make sure
an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system is put in place. This is
something to which the rest of the world, especially the wealthiest
nations, needs to contribute time, technology, and money so that
tsunami disaster is never repeated.
more information on this topic:
NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning System: http://www.prh.noaa.gov/ptwc/
Institute of Volconology and Seismology: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/
Tsunami Warning System: http://www.geophys.washington.edu/tsunami/general/warning/warning.html
thank you to my big brother who first told me the story of the heroic