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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Millions of lives at risk as governments fail to adopt disaster warning system
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Dec 05, 2013


File image.

World leaders are failing to adopt advanced early warning systems that could save millions of lives in disaster-prone regions. Technological breakthroughs mean that mobile phones can be used to alert millions of people to impending perils such as tsunamis and typhoons.

But with a few notable exceptions, governments have been to slow to appreciate the life-saving potential of cheap and simple warning systems that could have eased the 3,600 death toll from the Philippines Haiyan typhoon earlier this month.

With backing from the leaders of countries in at-risk areas, Western tourists and business people could also access severe weather and earthquake alerts on their mobiles while on their travels.

As many as 7,000 tourists, mostly from Europe, lost their lives in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. They died without warning.

The plea for government backing was made at an International Roundtable for Disaster Resilience in Brussels, hosted by Deakin University and the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies.

It will come from Sophia Salenius, who has developed the award-winning RegPoint disaster early-warning service.

She will urge world leaders to follow the example of the Indian Government and embrace the new technology.

Ms Salenius will tell the conference: "The typhoon in the Philippines reminded us all of Mother Nature's destructive power.

"Even in a technologically advanced 21st century, we remain dangerously exposed to the worst she has to offer.

"But this doesn't have to be the case. We have the capability to utilise a wealth of information and state of the art scientific analysis to significantly improve survival rates when disasters hit.

"It's up to governments to act, before it is too late. Effective warning systems are available, but politicians must give them their backing if they are to realise their potential."

The RegPoint warning service has the ability to send SMS messages immediately to all mobile phones in a designated locality, pinpointing precise warnings, guidance or other information to a specific geographical region before a disaster strikes.

It can provide citizens, in the case of a tsunami, with accurate and rapid information on the size, scale and expected time of the disaster, as well as with advice on how best to secure their safety.

This month, the world witnessed the devastation that Mother Nature can cause. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, with winds exceeding 320km/h (200 mph) affecting upwards of 11 million people.

It killed 3,600 people and left about half a million homeless.

"Surely nothing is more worthy of a nation state's financial support than in the effort of saving lives; lives of citizens that states are supposed to serve," Ms Salenius will say.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 killed 230,000 people in fourteen countries around the Indian Ocean. Nearly 2 million people were displaced. The wave cost the Indian economy an estimated 3 billion pounds.

And despite a significant time lag between the earthquake and the impact of the tsunami, nearly all of the victims were taken by surprise. There were no tsunami warning systems in place - and people paid the price.

Indonesia was the worst affected country, with a death toll of 170,000. The country's Ambassador to the European Union will be amongst those in attendance for Ms Salenius's keynote speech.

In the nine-year period between the Tsunami and today, despite huge advances in mobile health technology, effective and modern early warning systems remain conspicuous by their absence across much of the Indian Ocean, despite being readily available.

The government of India is one of the few administrations to have stepped up to the mark. The Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has recognised how imperative an effective early-warning system is and is working with RegPoint to put one in place.

Resilience to such disasters and the security of citizens can be enhanced, but only if governments team with mobile network providers and capitalize on the revolutionary technology.

In presenting the international Graham Bell prize for mobile health to RegPoint, the leading company in this field, the Dean and Professor of the Aegis School of Business, New Delhi, Dr. Abhijit Gangopadhyay, said:

"RegPoint's tsunami warning solution product is a really great innovation, which can be of significant use in the most disaster prone countries of world."

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