News: Early warning system already in place

The Star, 18 March 2011

WE refer to “Put in place disaster evacuation plans now” (The Star, March 17). The tsunami on Dec 24, 2004, is testimony that Malaysia is not immune to disasters.

Bordering countries that sit on active tectonic plates like Indonesia and the Philippines increases the possibility of such a disaster hitting us without much warning.

Cooperation and concerted action between various government departments and agencies as well as non-governmental bodies, the private sector and the public are needed to lessen the impact of tsunamis on the country.

A standard operating procedure was developed in line with National Security Council Directive No. 20 to cover management and handling of tsunami disasters from the prevention level to the recovery phase.

A National Tsunami Early Warning System, developed by the Malaysian Meteorological Department, provides early warning on the possible onslaught of tsunamis, be it over the Indian Ocean, South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean.

The Department also has a closed network with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii and the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Early warning or information is disseminated via sirens, SMS, telephone, fax, online, mass media broadcasting system as well as public announcements.

The Government is well aware that timely dissemination of information is crucial so that vulnerable communities and responders can take necessary action.

In this respect, pre-recorded early warning of potential catastrophic disasters such as tsunamis will be sent out to Telekom Malaysia’s fixed line subscribers.

Having an orderly mass evacuation in the event of disasters can only be possible with regular practice involving the public to instill awareness and equip them with knowledge on how to react during disasters.

As such, the Government through the National Security Council and the Meteorological Department has been proactive in conducting drill exercises in tsunami prone areas with local communities.

Such exercises had been held in Tawau and Lahad Datu in Sabah, Kuala Kedah and Pantai Chenang (Langkawi). Future exercises will involve communities in Langkawi and Kuala Muda in Kedah, Tanjung Bungah in Penang, and Kudat and Lahad Datu in Sabah.

In this age of information, the media also plays a crucial role in inculcating a culture of safety and resilience. The mass media is an effective platform to raise awareness among the public on disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness measures.

Realising the importance of the media in disaster risk reduction, the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry has established a Disaster Unit in the Department of Broadcasting Malaysia.

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL,

Prime Minister’s Department.

Source