Improving Indonesia’s Tsunam Warning System

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Updated: Dec 02, 2022
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Category: Environment
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About a month ago, a tsunami hit Palu, Indonesia. It was a devastating event. Rescue teams did their best to find survivors, but all that can be done now is to hold vigils for the missing. The measures taken to warn the people about the tsunami are outdated or broken. Some people were able to move to higher ground because of past experiences with earthquakes and tsunamis. Others, unfortunately, did not get the chance to move because the warning signal was not heard. Other equipment that work as a tsunami warning, have been broken or nonfunctional. So, measures should be taken to improve Indonesia’s tsunami warning systems and provide safety for the country’s citizens.

Indonesia should look towards getting a new early warning tsunami system. Being in the Ring of Fire, Indonesia should at least have a way of protecting its people. One way is using equipment that works properly and efficiently. The country was supposed to have a prototype of the new system installed before the twin disasters struck. For example, the Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis is proven to be more accurate than the seismographs and tidal gauges that were used (Martin).

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However, Indonesia does not have the funds for new additions to its early tsunami warning system. It is unfortunate, especially because the country needs it. The new system was developed by the US and Indonesia. This system has a combination of “sensor nodes, sound waves, and cables to recognize changes underwater and transmits that information to the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics, or BMKG” (Chandran).

Imagine how many lives would have been saved if Indonesia had the prototype. It may not have worked as well, but it would have done much more than the broken equipment that Indonesia currently has. If Indonesia has insufficient funds for the new system, the country should at least repair the old equipment. They may not be essential, but it is useful. Seismographs, the buoy gauges, and tidal gauges were part of Indonesia’s tsunami warning system.

Although these may be great for detecting tsunamis, this equipment was installed in 2008 (Singhvi et al.). It has been a decade since they were put in Indonesia, so they need to be upgraded with information from past tsunamis. The new information can determine the need for a warning signal. Before, it was activated when the numbers were high. However, past tsunamis have proved the equipment wrong. It is essential for upgraded equipment to make sure of the people’s safety.

The seismographs are used to analyze an earthquake’s location and strength. If it is strong enough, a message is sent out to warn the citizens. In this case, the earthquake reached a magnitude of 7.5, allowing a warning to go out. However, the cell phone towers destroyed by the earthquake, so there was actually no warning sent out (Singhvi et al.). Other than the seismograph, there were twenty-two buoy gauges. These gauges were used to record the sea level in deep water. They would then, in turn, send out warnings via authorities if there was a tsunami-related activity.

However, these buoys have been nonoperational since 2012 (Singhvi et al.). They were either vandalized or not maintenanced properly (Press). Some were even used as moors, destroying the buoy’s interior (Dean et al.). Another part of the early warning tsunami system were the tidal gauges. They were used near the shores to record any sea level changes. However, the gauges only sent data every fifteen minutes (Singhvi et al.). This proved to be meaningless in the case of the recent tsunami. It had sent three tall waves in the span of eleven minutes.

In 2016, there was actually an earthquake in Padang, Indonesia, proving that their equipment did not work (Press). Judging from how Indonesia’s early warning tsunami system has failed, even back then, it is shown that Indonesia is indeed in dire need of an upgrade. This is especially so, since it is a country prone to tsunami. It is within the Ring of Fire. This is more the reason to upgrade their system, so that less lives are lost. Besides focusing on the equipment, Indonesia should take measures to build tsunami shelters that can withstand liquefaction. Liquefaction is when loosened soil loses strength during an earthquake, making it act like a liquid. This is what caused the destruction of most homes in Palu and the surrounding areas.

One man actually found his wrecked home at least 50 yards away from where it used to stand before the tsunami (Abdurachman et al). Many other homes have been misplaced and left in pieces. This means that there were both homeless people and trapped people within the debris. However, it is too late for those who are trapped because it has been almost a month since the disaster. Providing shelters that are stocked with necessities and can withstand the liquefaction are probably Indonesia’s best bet after repairing the early warning tsunami system.

Without shelters, the people can still go to higher land. However, they would still need to get supplies and food. It was stated in “Indonesia Tsunami Survivors Are Burying the Dead and Are Desperate for Aid” that the airport was so crowded that a plane containing relief supplies could not land. Another report added that some people had raided two relief trucks that were on the way to one of the devastated sites.

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Fortunately, other countries are coming in to support and assist with any damages. Being linked with other countries can help bring more aid when it is needed. There are multiple networks that detect suspicious activity in the oceans or deal with the aftermath of disasters. A few are International Tsunami Information Centre, International Flood Network, and Warning System in the Pacific (Ali et al.).

In conclusion, Indonesia should be focusing on repairing its current equipment and giving people shelter. Without these, the people would be suffering many casualties and depleted supplies as seen in September. The prototype may be out of reach, but there is still a chance to repair the old equipment. After repairing the equipment, Indonesia should focus on shelters. If not, Indonesia will face another tragedy made by a tsunami.

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Improving Indonesia's Tsunam Warning System. (2019, Sep 13). Retrieved from