IOWave16: Linking the end-to-end Tsunami Early Warning to response preparedness

Tsunami hazard in Asia Pacific region

Tsunami occurs far and between; when it does though, it brings tremendous consequences. The Indian Ocean Tsunami in the boxing day of 2004 and the Great Eastern Japan Tsunami in March 2011 are stark reminders of such random destructions. There is definitely no room for complacency.

Such possible complacency could only be mitigated through periodical drills. There ought to be sufficient “tsunami literacy” among the exposed communities, capacity to prepare and respond to including mass evacuations. To make this happen, there must be regional and national early warning system, they must be well oiled to lead to timely and appropriate decisions by the authorities.

The Exercise

In the early half of the morning on 7 September 2016, a 9.2 scale earthquake struck off West Sumatra Coast. Tsunami is expected to affect communities in Pangandaran, Pandeglang and Pacitan, three among some 30 or-so tsunami-exposed districts in the country. This is a scenario that was mounted to test the tsunami early warning and preparedness systems in Indonesia.

Such a scenario, in reality, could have foreboding consequences similar to the infamous Indian Ocean in 2004. Over 230,000 people lost their lives and millions were left without homes or access to food and water. More recently, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami claimed over 15,000 lives and left many thousands homeless.

In this exercise BMKG as a Tsunami Service Provider (TSP) will disseminate tsunami warnings to the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) in 24 Indian Ocean countries, to be forwarded to Disaster Management Offices (DMOs).

Through the IOWave16, Indonesia tested the operating procedures and communication links across all levels of the warning chain. In addition, community response is exercised through evacuation to designated safe spaces. In Indonesia, the exercise will be held on 7 September and span across Pacitan, Padang, Pandeglang and Pangandaran.

The Exercise in Indonesia involved the collaboration between BMKG and the Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC), and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) with the support of the Government of Japan.

The importance of IOWave16

The international community has underlined that greater public awareness of the threats posed by natural hazards such as tsunamis is essential. Building resilience to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis is one of the most critical challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. While tsunamis occur infrequent, their consequences can be devastating to lives and livelihoods, while significantly setting back achieved development gains.

The IOWave16 was organized at the heel of the World Humanitarian Summit where international community agreed to recast the disaster management into comprehensive paradigm where disaster risk reduction, preparedness, and humanitarian relief are ought to be seamless.

The IOWave16 was part of the global periodic tsunami exercise being organized by the Intergovernmental Coordinating Group for Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG / IOTWMS). UNESCO IOC has designated BMKG as one of Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs) for Indian Ocean countries together with Australia and India.

The exercise, referred to as IOWave16, meant to test the standard operating procedures and communication links at all levels of the warning chain, and if stakeholder agencies, community organizations and citizens groups are able to work together to prepare for the evacuation after a tsunami warning is issued by national and local authorities.

A total of 24 countries in the Indian Ocean region participated in the IOWave16 tsunami exercise. This was coordinated by the Intergovernmental Coordination Group of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWMS) of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

In this exercise, Indonesia, as well as other Indian Ocean nations, were put in a tsunami warning situation. The national tsunami warning centres and the national and /or local disaster management offices implemented the standard operating procedures that span from generating the tsunami early warning, passing the warning to the decision makers, disseminating the warning and response instruction down the instruction lines, and getting communities responding appropriately when evacuation is being called for.

Throughout the day, the early warning chain communicated the updates as the hazard increases, peaks, and eventually decreases. Disaster response actors quickly processed the information, made rapid decisions, and government authorities conveyed such decisions in the form of instructions for the public to evacuate.

This exercise was indeed timely for the Asia Pacific region. A region where the Tsunami Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness was set up in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. This is also the region where Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted, and a reference for the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of 5 November as World Tsunami Awareness Day.

Expected results

Overall, the IOWave16 tsunami exercise is expected to yield useful insights to better manage disaster risk, provide windows for sharing of good practices in the Asia-Pacific region, and enhance public awareness with the ultimate aim of mitigating tsunami impact and building resilient communities. Background information and updates with regard to the tsunami exercise are provided on various bulletin boards, as well as on the Tsunami Preparedness Platform of the ESCAP Asia-Pacific ICT & DRR Gateway.

BMKG and BNPB plan to use the lessons from this exercise to improve the Indonesian tsunami Masterplan. This is a reference document that was crafted in 2012 to plan Tsunami-related mechanisms, programme and activities in four pillars namely the early warning system, temporary evacuation premises, response preparedness, and the resilience of businesses.

The role of Indonesia as one of the Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs), or information provider Tsunami in the Indian Ocean along with Australia and India, will be increasingly important with the move of BMKG to host the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC), which has been established by IOC / UNESCO as Tsunami information center, preparedness, education and capacity building in the Indian Ocean region.

Externally, Indonesia expects to take the lessons to inform the World Tsunami Awareness Day, the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, and ESCAP regional workshop on Tsunami, as well as an international conference on Tsunami Ready that is scheduled to be held later this year.

Find various reports and photos about IOWave16 Indonesia on