Sunday, March 07, 2010

Australian Tsunami Awareness Review

Yesterday, the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, announced a Tsunami Awareness Project, and a review of the public response to tsunami warnings. These are of limited value due to a lack of detail about the review and restrictions placed on distribution of the awareness campaign materials by the Attorney.

"Tsunami Education and Awareness" is a CD-ROM and web site distributed by Surf Life Saving Australia. The Attorney says he has written to Emergency Services Ministers and Surf Life Saving Organisations requesting a review of the public response to tsunami warnings. It is not clear who is conducting the review, what resources have been made available for it or when it is to be completed. The Attorney did not release the proposed terms of reference for the review.

While Australia has a well designed and run Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) provided by the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia, there is no national system for the warnings to be distributed through government agencies, nor a response coordinated. Warnings are sent to an ad-hoc arrangement of state organisations and then to an assortment of local bodies. It is not surprising that the public may take little notice of the resulting confusing and contradictory messages they get as a result.

An example of the lack of effort for Tsunami warning is show by the Queensland Government's "Queensland Tsunami Notification Protocol" (Version 1 , 9 December 2009). This has been distributed as a 9 page 3.7Mbyte PDF document, scanned from a paper original. As a result the text of the protocol cannot be found with a search or copied for use. The protocol contains such outdated procedures as the JTWC contacting Queensland by telephone before issuing a Tsunami warning. This is not an acceptable procedure as it would delay the issue of a warning and risk public safety. The protocol assumes a 90 minute warning for a Tsunami. However, situations can arise much more quickly, which would place emergency personnel in the ethical dilemma of either following procedures or ignoring them to issue a timely warning. The Protocol does not specify how agencies within Queensland are notified. Based on previously experience of a Tsunami warning in Queensland, it is not clear the Queensland Government has a system for coordinating a response.
The review will be conducted with State and Territory Emergency Services Agencies, Local Governments, surf life saving organisations and other stakeholders and will focus on:
  • ways to better educate and prepare the public for, and improve its response to, future tsunami warnings, and
  • mechanisms for the effective distribution of tsunami warnings to the public. ...
From: Tsunami Awareness Project, Media Release, Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, 6 March 2010
Tsunami Education and Awareness Material

The distribution of the awareness material distributed by Surf Life Saving Australia will be greatly hampered be the Attorney's decision to ban making copies. The Attorney has imposed copyright restrictions on the material banning the making of any copies without written permission of the federal government. The Attorney could have instead used a Creative Commons licence, freely allowing not-for-profit distribution.

Tests on the main menu page of the awareness kit show:
  1. No HTML Validation Errors.
  2. Score of only 35/100 with the W3C mobileOK Checker. It would be very useful for such a awareness program to be compatible with mobile phones used by young people.
  3. On an automated accessibility test (TAW 3.0 for WACG 1.0) the page had zero Priority 1, sixteen Priority 2 and 4 Priority 3 problems. It would be useful if the page at least met current Australian guidelines for accessibility of web sites by the disabled.
Table of Contents of the Awareness Campaign

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