The Tsunami Alerting Device (TAD) developed by the Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), with its capacity to directly and timely alert people at risk on coastal areas represents a major step forward towards the creation of effective tsunami early warning systems.
The Tsunami Alerting Device (TAD) consists of a panel equipped with data receivers, a display, an alerting siren and a loudspeaker. When an earthquake occurs, the TAD is activated by innovative software that automatically calculates within minutes the expected tsunami wave height and travel time and, in case of danger, activates the alert message. The JRC's software is based on a model that takes into account seismic parameters, such as the earthquake epicenter and magnitude, and pre-calculated potential tsunamis based on historical tsunami events. The TAD can be also connected with local sea level measurement systems allowing the device to alert the population also in case of dangerous waves of non-seismic origin such as those created by landslides.
The TAD was tested in Setubal (Portugal), where the local municipality had already developed a detailed evacuation plan in case of tsunami flooding. To maximize the number of people that can be directly alerted in case of a tsunami, an agreement was recently concluded between JRC and eVigilo, an IT company specialized in mass alert platform, for further developing an integrated tsunami alert system for sending real-time and geo-targeted alert messages to the population across multiple channels such as fix and mobile Internet, mobile phones, TV, radio, sirens, billboards and pagers.
The TAD is part of a global Tsunami Wave Propagation Model developed by the JRC in the context of the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), which was jointly developed by the JRC and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA).
GDACS is a web-based platform that in case of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and cyclones, sends automatic alerts via e-mail, fax or SMS to the international first responders community. GDACS combines information on the event, the population in the affected area and the vulnerability of that population to derive an alert level that indicates the probability for a catastrophic situation with needs for international humanitarian intervention. GDACS also offers a platform for structured information exchange between responders and coordinators, thus facilitating decision-making. GDACS, which has now 18000 users worldwide, has already proved its capabilities in several occasions: for example, in January 2010 when the earthquake struck Haiti, GDACS detected the first shock after 18 minutes and immediately issued a red alert to its users and in March 2011, just after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, GDACS sent out a correct and timely alert message to its users within 20 min and properly estimated that the Tsunami wave would not further propagate in the Pacific Ocean.
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