As an example, Pacific warnings use dashes "-" to separate parameters, whereas Indian Ocean warnings use colons ":". Also the Pacific warnings say: "NO DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS BASED ON
HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA", whereas the equivalent Indian Ocean message is "THERE IS A VERY SMALL POSSIBILITY OF A DESTRUCTIVE LOCAL TSUNAMI ".
From Tsunami bulletin number 001, issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre/NOAA/NWS at 0628Z 17 JUN 2005:
AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERSFrom Tsunami bulletin number 001, issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) at 1550 16 MAY 2006 (UTC):
ORIGIN TIME - 0622Z 17 JUN 2005
COORDINATES - 40.6 NORTH 126.3 WEST
LOCATION - OFF COAST OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
MAGNITUDE - 6.9
NO DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS BASED ON
HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA. ...
1.EARTHQUAKE INFORMATIONI noticed the differences when attempting to forward the messages to a mobile telephone using SMS. The SMS system can only send short messages. So I had my mail system search for a key phrase in the message. This worked with "LOCATION", as this is common to Pacific and Indian ocean messages. However, if I attempted to have the system look for the punctuation after the word "LOCATION" the problem becomes much more difficult, as it has to allow for either a dash or a colon.
ORIGIN TIME : 1528 16 MAY 2006 (UTC)
COORDINATES : 0.1 NORTH 97.0 EAST
LOCATION : NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
MAGNITUDE : 6.9
THERE IS A VERY SMALL POSSIBILITY OF A DESTRUCTIVE LOCAL
TSUNAMI IN THE INDIAN OCEAN. ...
Also there does not appear an easy way for a computer program, or a human reader, to look at a message and quickly determine if it is for a destructive tsunami, or not. All the messages use the word "destructive". It would seem preferable to phrase the messages so they indicate what is predicted to happen, not what is predicted to not happen.
It would aid reading by both human operators and machines interpreting the information if the same format and wording was used by all international tsunami warning centres. This could be done by agreeing a specification for the format of the warning message and a controlled vocabulary to be used in the messages.
It might be argued that in the long term the messages should be formatted in a precise computer readable format, such as Common Alerting Protocol, or that the tsunami warnings are only intended for trained emergency staff not the general public. However, for the foreseeable future there will be a need to communicate tsunami warnings in natural language and so it would be desirable if that language was as precise and standardised as possible.
It should be noted that SMS is not necessarily the best technology for emergency communication and there are other options for Wireless Internet for Emergencies.
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