Enhancing coastal hazard early warning and response: tools and institutional strengthening

  • Myanmar,
  • Philippines,
  • Sri Lanka,
  • Thailand,
  • South Asia,
  • Southeast Asia,

ENTRY DATE: 03.06.2013 | LAST UPDATE: 03.06.2013


  • Countrywide


  • Rural and Urban


  • Capacity Building


  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Management


  • USD 100,001 - USD 500,000

Description of Intervention


The project shall be implemented in collaboration with NMHSs/NTWCs as national focal points for implementation, and NDMOs as local level focal points, and in consultation with relevant UNESCO/IOC IOTWS/ICG working group.  This implementation arrangement is already in existence in the target countries through previous projects.  Also, these NMHSs/NTWCs are RIMES Member State focal points, and constitute the RIMES Council.  
A project initiation meeting in each country, involving the NTWC/NMHS, NDMO, and national mapping agencies shall be organized to receive feedback on the project framework and agree on a project work plan, clarify institutional arrangements for tsunami risk mapping and application, update on completed and ongoing relevant efforts in the countries, and identify the proposed project’s synergies with these efforts.
RIMES shall build tsunami risk assessment capacity in Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand through training, demonstration of tool application, and transfer of equipment, software, systems, and training manuals to these countries.  INSPIRE and ESCAPE are fully-automated tools, with user-friendly interfaces.  They are web-based, with data servers hosted at RIMES, allowing the countries to access them through the Internet at a minimum connection speed of 512 kbps.  For practice purposes, RIMES shall install a system prototype of each, with technical agencies in charge of risk assessment, as indicated in the previous section.
Trainings shall be done in-country, with the focal point sharing with the local costs (training venue and accommodation for trainers for those having facilities on-site, like PHIVOLCS).  User manuals for field survey, INSPIRE, and ESCAPE have been developed, including the methodology for DEM generation.  RIMES technical staff shall provide the training, with the training team consisting of the Coastal Hydrodynamics Scientist; Technical Specialists for remote sensing, GIS, and bathymetric, topographic, and exposure surveys; and Coastal Hazards Researcher, who were all involved in tool development and testing.  RIMES shall organize the trainings in close collaboration with and involvement of focal points from the hydrographic department, land survey department, agency mandated to undertake tsunami risk assessment, NTWC, and NDMO.  Selection of participants shall be based on appropriate educational background, relevant experience, and current role and responsibilities in the NTWC, technical agencies concerned with near-shore bathymetric and topographic surveys and risk assessment, research support institutions, NDMO, and other disaster management organizations.  
Demonstrations shall be conducted in one pilot location in each country, preferably the sites covered by ESCAP’s TTF-07 project, for which RIMES has run INSPIRE using the best available data.  The field surveys shall increase data resolution and, hence, improve risk assessment outputs. In Myanmar, pilot sites of ESCAP’s TTF-16 project shall be considered.  In the Philippines, the site targeted by the American Red Cross-supported coastal community resilience project, which RIMES implemented during 2009-2011, may also be considered.  All these sites were selected and endorsed by NTWCs/NMHSs; final site selection for this project shall be confirmed by respective NDMOs, for which ESCAPE products and their testing would be useful.  As elaborated under Section C, demonstrations shall not be conducted in Thailand, since high quality survey maps and datasets are already available for the western coast of the country; INSPIRE and ESCAPE products shall complement risk and evacuation maps already available for high-risk areas. 
Potential demonstration sites are:
o Myanmar:  Kunyangon/ Labutta
o Philippines:  San Fernando/ Dagupan/ Sipalay City
o Sri Lanka:  Hambantota/ Trincomalee/ Kalmunai
For Thailand, data for Patong or Kamala, which were used during tool development, shall be used as input data for INSPIRE and ESCAPE.
Evacuation routes generated by ESCAPE, using risk assessment outputs from INSPIRE, shall be tested in a drill.  A simulation exercise shall be designed and undertaken in each site, involving RIMES for providing tsunami information, NTWC for providing warning, and NDMO and local authorities for organizing warning response.  UNESCO/IOC’s guidelines on how to plan, conduct, and evaluate tsunami exercises shall be adapted to develop an exercise manual for the pilot site that is also consistent with NDMO procedures.  Manual development shall consider all other major hazards in the site, in addition to tsunami.  Exercise evaluation outcomes shall be provided as feedback to IOC, RIMES, NTWC, NDMO, and local authorities, for improving warning information generation and dissemination, tools, and the early warning system as a whole.
To facilitate tool adoption, equipment used in the field survey in each country  and software used in data processing and DEM generation shall be provided to respective national survey and mapping agencies, to enable them to replicate the work in other sites. 
RIMES shall strengthen multi-hazard early warning systems and regional resource sharing by:  a) tabling, for adoption by the RIMES Council (which consists of heads of NMHSs/ national scientific and technical agencies generating multi-hazard early warning information, having mandates of making policy decisions concerning the regional early warning arrangement) a policy document on regional data sharing, including a mechanism for forecaster interaction during tropical cyclone event in the region for improving warning coordination on transboundary hazards, and b) sharing of experiences, lessons, and successes, and updates on scientific advances and new/emerging technologies and tools through the regular meetings of the RIMES Council.
Two RIMES Council meetings shall be held within this project period.  The first meeting shall:  
a) Consider and provide inputs for policy and mechanism development for data sharing.  RIMES Program Unit shall assist the Council in drafting the data sharing policy and mechanism, for finalization and adoption during the second meeting, including the preparation and resourcing of an action plan. RIMES Program Unit has initiated the bringing of local hydro-meteorological data from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to the regional center, wherefrom these countries could access data other than their own.  RIMES Program Unit uses these data in providing improved simulation products to the countries.  RIMES funds this effort, which involves provision of dedicated data server to the NMHS and travel by RIMES System Analyst to the country to set-up the data sharing system. 
b) Consider and provide inputs for development of mechanism for regional online interaction of forecasters during tropical cyclone occurrence.  The Council could assign Member States to lead respective efforts in the South China Sea and Bay of Bengal.  Progress/actions made during the monsoon shall be reported in the second meeting.
c) Share experiences, lessons/successes of this proposed project, and provide feedback.
The second meeting shall make follow-up actions as above; share experiences, lessons/successes of this project; and identify activities and funding sources for replication.

Problems to be Addressed


Needs Assessment
For countries with inadequate resources for disaster preparedness, as is the case for most countries in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian region, identification of high-risk areas is crucial for prioritizing resource allocation.  Tsunami preparedness, being a rare hazard in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea region, has not been prioritized until after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Tsunami awareness, and the need for preparedness, was heightened during the East Japan tsunami in March 2011 and the many strong aftershocks from the earthquake that caused it.
A tsunami risk assessment would reveal communities that would be highly vulnerable to the hazard.  This, however, entails detailed inundation modeling for a range of scenarios from most important source zones, and requires computational capability and good-quality near-shore bathymetric, topographic, and exposure datasets.  RIMES assessment, through the ESCAP-supported TTF-07 project, revealed that tsunami risk assessment capability in the region is very low to non-existent, except for countries like Australia, India, and Indonesia, where there is strong computational capability.  The focus of capacity building efforts that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has been on establishing a regional early warning system, strengthening of warning dissemination systems, enhancing emergency preparedness and response in the affected areas, and building tsunami risk awareness. 
UNESCO/IOC implemented from 2007-2010 a project on Improving Emergency Response to Ocean-Based Extreme events through Coastal Mapping Capacity Building in the Indian Ocean (COAST MAP-IO), targeting national hydrographic offices and disaster management agencies of Bangladesh, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Thailand.  The project organized 15 regional training courses and workshops on advanced bathymetric data acquisition, processing and management; bathymetric and topographic data management and map construction; development of digital elevation models and hydrodynamic models for tsunami inundation simulation; and hazard and risk map applications.  The proposed project shall build on these efforts by:  a) providing a complementary survey methodology that is low-cost, yet generates high-accuracy data, and includes exposure survey (this methodology will be useful in areas that are considered high-risk, yet are currently lacking in near-shore bathymetric and topographic data); b) offering national level training to include agencies, other than the hydrographic office, concerned with near-shore bathymetric and topographic mapping and application, including research institutes and universities; c) demonstration of techniques in a pilot site to generate and showcase usefulness of products in disaster preparedness.
Investment of scarce resources also favors ventures that are effective, efficient, and have longer-lasting impact.  In this regard, development of tsunami early warning systems have taken a multi-hazard approach, with multi-stakeholder involvement for providing inputs and feedback, and early warning integration into broader disaster risk reduction and development, and regional resource sharing among the sustainability strategies.  
Currently, meteorological and environmental observations are shared globally through WMO’s Global Telecommunication System, as well as through its Global Observing Systems Information Center one-stop web-based portal.  Other global data centers, such as the Global Precipitation Climatology Center and Global Runoff Data Center in Germany, share station and gridded datasets under cooperative agreements with WMO or with NMHSs.  Data shared through these channels, however, are only from select stations in the countries.  Data assimilation for improving forecasts and, consequently, warnings, require local data at the area of interest.  Recognizing this, RIMES Member States agreed to establish a data sharing mechanism, and included this as a priority area in its Master Plan 2010-2014.
In a recent visit to RIMES Program Unit by WMO’s Director of Weather and Disaster Risk Reduction Services, it was agreed that WMO shall assist RIMES in this endeavor by providing guidelines and data format standards, and that RIMES shall link its efforts with WMO’s Regional Climate Centres, which are currently being developed for maintaining regional climate data banks.
This project is proposed to build tsunami risk assessment capacities in Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand; and develop a regional data sharing policy for RIMES Member States and collaborating countries.
Problem Analysis
During the development of RIMES Master Plan 2010-2014, RIMES Member States and collaborating countries agreed to address gaps in tsunami risk assessment capacity.  Specifically, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Tanzania requested for capacity building in tsunami inundation modeling and risk evaluation, including the generation of the required high-resolution dataset.  The countries noted the tsunami risk assessment capacity developed within RIMES Program Unit and the tools that it developed and tested.  These include a low-cost methodology for near-shore bathymetric, topographic, and exposure surveys, and a computer-based tsunami propagation and inundation risk assessment tool, named INSPIRE, which calculates and maps tsunami travel time, amplitude, and current velocity, and probabilities of human death and building damage.  The countries further noted the utility of INSPIRE in areas having lower resolution dataset, as it allows four levels of analysis according to the accuracy of input data.  This would enable preliminary risk assessments utilizing available data, while resources to generate high-resolution data in other high-risk areas are not yet available.  The countries also noted, during the fourth RIMES Council meeting in February 2011, RIMES efforts in developing a computer-based tool that integrates INSPIRE outputs into evacuation planning.  This tool, named ESCAPE, calculates and maps the fastest evacuation route, taking into consideration decelerating factors, such as land use, water dynamics, etc..
RIMES shall demonstrate the functions and use of these tools in aiding tsunami warning and improving preparedness and response in Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.  Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were selected from the Indian Ocean countries, while Philippines from the South China Sea countries.  Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were the project countries for TTF-07; hence, partnerships necessary for the proposed project have been established.  Also, under the TTF-07 project, preliminary tsunami risk assessments have been undertaken in select sites in Philippines and Sri Lanka, making best use of available data.  The proposed project shall refine the risk maps produced in these sites, using survey data.  Myanmar and Sri Lanka are also TTF-16 project countries; the proposed project shall add a multi-hazard dimension to local level activities in these countries.  Furthermore, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Thailand represent countries of differing degree in risk assessment capabilities, from least to more capable, in terms of technical and human resource capacities.  Engagement in Myanmar shall aim to build basic tsunami risk assessment capacity; in Sri Lanka to enhance existing capacity; in the Philippines, to offer low-cost methodology and robust tools, noting the large area exposed to tsunamigenic sources that require risk mapping; and in Thailand to provide science-based tools for risk and evacuation mapping, in response to request from the Ministry of Interior.
Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Philippines shall receive the full suite of training programs proposed under this project, while focus in Thailand shall be on INSPIRE and ESCAPE.  Thailand’s Hydrographic Department of the Royal Thai Navy (HDRTN) and the Royal Thai Survey Department (RTSD) are well resourced in undertaking bathymetric and topographic surveys.  After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the HDRTN, on one hand, focused on re-survey of 16 areas along the west coast of Thailand, from Ranong to Satun provinces .  The HDRTN is equipped with modern equipment, such as multi-beam echosounders, side-scan sonar, and high accuracy GPS/DGPS, survey boats and multi-purpose vessel for hydrographic survey, and trained and experienced technical staff .  The RTSD, on the other hand, focused on production of aerial photographs of the affected areas and conducted GPS network adjustment to rectify deformations caused by the tsunamigenic mega-thrust earthquake .  The RTSD continually develops its GPS network and updates geographic details of a location every 5 years, using aerial photography and satellite images from SPOT5 and SRTM DTED 2 .  Also, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a government agency-academe team conducted a detailed building survey of the affected area, and archived survey results in a database.  Products of these efforts after the 2004 tsunami were used by RIMES in validating the low-cost survey methodologies for near-shore bathymetric, topographic, and exposure surveys.
Participating countries in the RIMES Council meeting in February 2011 emphasized the need for regional data sharing and regional interaction of forecasters during a tropical cyclone event to improve warning information generation, provision, and utilization in planning and decision-making.  



The project aims to build capacities of:
a) Technical government agencies involved in the generation of near-shore bathymetric and topographic maps and exposure data: i) Myanmar – Myanmar National Hydrographic Center and Department of Land Survey; ii) Philippines – National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA); and iii) Sri Lanka – National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and the Survey Department
b) Technical agencies involved in tsunami risk assessment:  i) Myanmar – Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), ii) Philippines – Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), iii) Sri Lanka – Coast Conservation Department, and iv) Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) – Thailand 
c) Research institutions/ universities involved in risk assessment
d) Users of risk assessment products:  i) Myanmar – DMH and General Administration Department/ Relief and Resettlement Department, ii) Philippines – PHIVOLCS and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), iii) Sri Lanka – Department of Meteorology (DoM) and Disaster Management Center (DMC), and iv) Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) – Thailand
e) Local authorities and other disaster management organizations at the pilot sites, such as the National Red Cross Society, NGOs, and CBOs
f) Members of the RIMES Council, consisting of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and/or technical agencies mandated to generate and provide early warning