Japan Issues Earthquake Warning Six Minutes Before Tremblor

On December 14, 2012, in News, by with SRA International

Last week’s earthquake off the coast of Japan brought to mind the devastating earthquake and tsunami that slammed into the island nation in 2011. While this earthquake caused relatively little serious damage, and thus becomes just one of many earthquakes to hit Japan over the year, there is one point that is particularly noteworthy: residents were warned a full six minutes before the earth shook. Continue reading »

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This is the last in a series of 4 reports on the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention held April 9-14 in Las Vegas, NV.

All of us are familiar with the recent switch of all U.S. TV stations to Digital TV (DTV), now offering us a clearer widescreen TV picture at home. A follow-on to that DTV transition is an additional specification called Mobile DTV (mDTV). The mDTV transmissions come from your local TV stations just like the DTV signal you view at home, but mDTV is a separate signal meant strictly for mobile reception. Mobile DTV is being rolled out by commercial TV stations in 20 markets this year. In addition, $2M in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) will assist Public TV stations in 20 markets to launch mDTV. Manufacturers such as LG, RCA and Samsung are already making dedicated mDTV receivers with three- to five-inch screens, as well as portable DVD players with embedded mDTV tuners. Adapters for mDTV are also hitting the market for use on laptops, tablet computers, and the iPhone and iPad. Of course the “killer app” will be mDTV on cell phones. LG is leading the way on that effort, having already developed the needed chip for cellular handset integration. Handset makers are now in the process of finding real estate within their handsets for the chip and we should be seeing mDTV-enabled cellular handsets soon. Some of the cool new mDTV features shown at the NAB Show included 3D TV without glasses, interacting with the show you are watching via Tweet-TV, on-demand shows using NRT (non-real-time) technology, and virtual coupons you can scan at a local store right from your smart phone.

Great, but what does all this have to do with Alerts & Warnings? Well, in an NAB session I sat in on there was a lengthy discussion by guest speakers from Japan on how well Mobile DTV worked in their country during the recent earthquake and tsunami. When citizens felt the shaking and opened up their cell phones for information, they found that cellular service was down – but Mobile DTV was up and running, since the signal comes from local TV stations not the cellular towers. The public could watch real time video of the happenings in the affected area, getting current information on demand. At the end of this convincing session, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey announced that PBS will be participating in a year-long pilot program to deliver emergency alerts using audio, video, text and graphics via Mobile DTV. PBS will partner with LG Electronics, and its R&D lab Zenith, which will develop mDTV devices and will fund the project. Also, CPB will provide matching grants to local public TV stations for the mDTV transmission equipment. This new system will be different, and in addition to, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) which delivers only text messages via the cellular network infrastructure (referenced in my previous NAB reports). The pilot messages will be CAP-compliant and will be integrated with the FEMA IPAWS system.
Link to the PBS Press Release: www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2011/mobile-dtv-eas/

A different session at NAB highlighted yet another warning method used in Japan for emergencies, DTV Datacasting. This is data that is delivered to your home TV, and then displayed on your TV screen. A demonstration was shown of the system in action during the earthquake; the normal program picture reduced to one-quarter-size and the rest of the screen was emergency data such as evacuation routes or shelter locations. During non-emergency times, the system is used by local officials on a daily basis for routine community announcements to increase public awareness of the system. While this system would be another excellent example to follow in the U.S., it was disappointing to hear that the data is based on Japan’s own TV Common Markup Language (TVCML), not the worldwide standard Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).

We hope you’ve enjoyed our NAB 2011 Reports on AWARE – see you next year.

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Social Media in Japan

On March 29, 2011, in Featured Posts, General, Social Media, by with SRA International

The Global Post’s recent article about the use of social media in devastated Japan, Japan tsunami disaster: As Japan scrambles, Twitter reigns, echoes the same sentiment I’ve had lately regarding social media:

It seems no natural disaster or revolt can pass without an examination of Twitter, the free internet social media service that lets users type out news, rants, epiphanies or cries for help in 140 characters or less.

Of course, some of this information isn’t exactly an examination or critique. If you Google “Twitter Japan Tsunami” you’ll have to wade through link after link about Hollywood celebrities tweeting about the recent events in Japan (yawn). However, if you know where to look, you can find some very interesting information about the use of social media in Japan right now. AWARE’s members have certainly had a lot to say about the value and use of social media in disasters lately. Apparently, so has the rest of the world.

Slate published an article titled, The Best-Laid Plans…. The story isn’t so much a critique of the use of social media since the disaster but more a snapshot of how the Kesennuma City Crisis Management Department worked to amass Twitter followers and keep them engaged in the topic of emergency preparedness well before the recent earthquake and tsunami events. Kesennuma City is in complete ruin, but the tweeting continues.

Ushahidi has, of course, deployed its services in Japan — it also has begun blogging about its work. A recent post shows a heat map of its deployment. It appears that well over half of Japan has been impacted by the earthquake and tsunami events.

(While you’re on Ushahidi’s blog, I encourage you to check out its series titled, “Recent Deployments and Lessons Learned Part 1 and Part 2.”  More to come on this two-part series in another post!)

Even the media is using social media to cover the disaster…and of course they are writing about it, as evidenced by the BBC’s aptly titled article, Using Twitter to cover the Earthquake in Japan and USAToday’s Japan: Twitter earthquake and tsunami updates from the ground. In fact, Scientific American used the tweets and Facebook status updates of the local population to report on Japan’s “online panic” caused by the nuclear crisis.  The media may be on to something here. As more reporters flee Japan due to fears of nuclear contamination, we may see them rely more heavily on first hand social media accounts in place of on-the-ground journalists to report the news.

I’m sure the coverage and critique of Japan’s use of social media during a disaster has only just begun, especially now that Japan’s Office of the Prime Minister launched its own Facebook page this week…in English.

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Some scientists defend tsunami warnings

On March 1, 2010, in News, by with Touchstone Consulting Group

By GILLIAN FLACCUS (AP) – 14 hours ago

HONOLULU — The warning was ominous, its predictions dire: Oceanographers issued a bulletin telling Hawaii and other Pacific islands that a killer wave was heading their way with terrifying force and that “urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.”

But the devastating tidal surge predicted after Chile’s magnitude 8.8-earthquake for areas far from the epicenter never materialized. And by Sunday, authorities had lifted the warning after waves half the predicted size tickled the shores of Hawaii and tourists once again jammed beaches and restaurants.

Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but many defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn’t get enough warning.

“It’s a key point to remember that we cannot under-warn. Failure to warn is not an option for us,” said Dai Lin Wang, an oceanographer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. “We cannot have a situation that we thought was no problem and then it’s devastating. That just cannot happen.”

Hundreds of thousands of people fled shorelines for higher ground Saturday in a panic that circled the Pacific Rim after scientists warned 53 nations and territories that a tsunami had been generated by the massive Chilean quake.

It was the largest-scale evacuation in Hawaii in years, if not decades. Emergency sirens blared throughout the day, the Navy moved ships out of Pearl Harbor, and residents hoarded gasoline, food and water in anticipation of a major disaster. Some supermarkets even placed limits on items like Spam because of the panic buying.

At least five people were killed by the tsunami on Robinson Crusoe Island off Chile’s coast and huge waves devastated the port city of Talcahuano, near hard-hit Concepcion on Chile’s mainland.

But the threat of monster waves that left Hawaii’s sun-drenched beaches empty for hours never appeared — a stark contrast to the tidal surge that killed 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean in 2004 and flattened entire communities.

 More at:  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jBrcBuf8vcRnbwe8MlMqRV1EnkOwD9E5LFTG1

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Earthquake Early Warning System Possible

On December 14, 2009, in Alerts & Warnings 101, by with Touchstone Consulting Group

Earthquake Early Warning System Possible
Released: 12/14/2009 10:51:48 AM

An earthquake early warning system for California is feasible in coming years, according to research being presented Dec. 14-15 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

The ongoing study demonstrates that an earthquake early warning system for California is possible and lays out how such a system could be built.

Earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking. Building on developments in other countries with significant earthquake risk, scientists are exploring early warning in the United States.

After a three-year earthquake early warning study funded by the U.S. Geological Survey was completed in August 2009, a second USGS-funded project was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system. When completed, this pilot system, called the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) ShakeAlert System, will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies. While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts.

The CISN ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake’s epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. The speed of an electronic warning message is faster than the speed of earthquake waves traveling through the earth. Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems, and alerting people to move to safer locations. In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.

More at:  http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2366&from=news_side

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