After the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami the United Nations coordinated the establishment of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. Less well known (and less well established) is the North Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected Seas Tsunami Warning System (NEAMTWS). The need for such a facility became more urgent with recent research from the University of Cambridge showing that Tsunami in the Mediterranean of the magnitude of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami are far more frequent than previously thought.
The NEAMTWS is intended to alert Europe, North African and Middle Eastern countries. As with the Indian Ocean system, there is an email list provided by UNESCO which can be subscribed to for receiving warnings. However, given the small size of areas such as the Mediterranean, the warning time for a Tsunami could be very short and faster means of communication should be used by government and official emergency management organizations.
There appears to be a dangerious lack of progress with the NEAMTWS . The latest meeting was 21 – 23 November 2007. The meeting was to consider Version 3.2 of the implementation plan (summary appended). However, all the meeting report says is: "Please check back here in the next few days for the meeting summary report.".
The plan appears to be a well researched, but it is no substitute for action. Professionals involved, including ICT professionals, need to keep in mind that failure to act on such a clear and present danger is unethical, and may in addition expose them to civil and criminal prosecution in the event of a disaster.
The complex system of regional, national and local systems does not make for an effective system and may need to be rethought. A system which sends warnings directly from those detecting them, to the citizens may be better. The bureaucrats and politicians who would object to this need to keep in mind they may face a lynch mob in the event of large loss of life.
This Implementation Plan for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (NEAMTWS) specifies detailed requirements of the design and implementation of the tsunami warning and mitigation system for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas. Following its initial phase, the warning system is intended to apply to other marine-related hazards in addition to tsunamis, in particular storm surges, both causing i.e coastal inundation. As the requirements are developing and therefore still are subject to changes or modifications, and as the implementation will progress, this Implementation Plan is a dynamic document. In constant use and development, it will only represent the status of the system at a specific time of viewing. As a living document it will be available on the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) web site and subsequent versions will be distributed at Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG)/NEAMTWS meetings.
The Implementation Plan is structured to reflect the ICG and its Working Groups, WG 1 (Hazard Assessment, Risk and Modelling), WG 2 (Seismic and Geophysical Measurements), WG 3 (Sea Level Data Collection and Exchange, including Offshore Tsunami Detection and Instruments), and WG 4 (Advisory, Mitigation and Public Awareness).
After a status summary, details are condensed in Action Plans for all components of the system. Capacity building is explicitly addressed to highlight the importance of training and extend the basis of the people involved in operating the system at all levels. Reflecting the work as its progresses there are parts that are not yet as detailed as required.
The Implementation Plan is only one of the documents that describe the NEAMTWS and help in managing it. Others are, or will be available.
The NEAMTWS is a complex operation owned and operated by Member States through their designated agencies. Besides the national functions these agencies serve as conduits for information within the system that is amongst all participating partners. These are further augmented into international, mostly regional, functions that serve an agreed regional ensemble of member states. These functions need particular attention for the system to perform as a whole.
The performance of the NEAMTWS depends on the implementation of all its components, their sustained operation and the adherence to agreed common principles of operation, interaction and data policy. This performance needs to be monitored in order to improve the NEAMTWS, identify deficiencies and suggest remedial action. A real test of the NEAMTWS may happen only rarely. But it will then highlight the credibility of the system and all its participating partners. The public will only judge the performance or the success of the system from the impact, the loss of lives and the damages that occurred.
The timely and appropriate implementation of the NEAMTWS is crucial to its success. Recent events have shown that time to prepare, implement and train is short as the events are unpredictable. In its implementation priorities, requirements and details will change or have to be adapted. Member States are therefore asked to prioritize details they feel need special attention on both the national and international level. They also are invited to provide guidance as to further developing governance mechanisms for the NEAMTWS.
From: Implementation Plan, North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, NEAMTWS,
Version 3.2, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Technical Series 73, 24 July 2007