Tsunami Early Warning Information Graphic

 

Yep - they get it in Japan.

When the recent 6 metre tsunami hit the Samoan region, killing 189 people, there unfortunately wasn’t time to warn their people.

But there was time to warn their neighbours in the South Pacific.

We failed.

New Zealand had several hours to crank-up the tsunami warning machine. The police did their best to round up people on the shoreline, but apart from that all we got was out-of-date news reports, government websites which were light on detail and the internet rife with speculation and rumours.

In New Zealand SMS (text) messages warning people in high-risk areas arrived 3 hours too late. How many people on the East Coast of New Zealand could have been killed if this was the big one? Potentially thousands.

My previous article covered how bad the information out there was at representing where the tsunami could strike, the risk and what to do. The graphics which were available were highly technical, easy to misinterpret and in most cases was retrospective data of what had actually occurred – not predictions of what was coming.

And we have to take into account human nature. In New Zealand when we hear a tsunami is coming a fair number of us just assume it’s yet another false alarm. Hundreds even go down to the shoreline to watch it coming in.

Why? Saying “go to higher ground” isn’t specific enough. Some will think that means the big sand-dune a few metres from the shoreline.

I believe we need to give people a clear message at a glance, and just enough detailed information that they’ll take it seriously.

So, while I don’t claim to be a tsunami expert, I decided to have a go at creating a ‘general public’ information graphic which could be populated with data in real-time (or by hand and published online within minutes).

Tsunami of Confusion

The information graphics created to inform people on the Samoan tsunami about to hit New Zealand didn’t send a clear message.

When disaster hits it spreads on the internet like wildfire. But the information graphics the public are served up are next to useless for making an informed decision on whether or not you’re in imminent danger.

Yesterday morning I arrived at work, opened Twitter and found out about the shocking Samoan earthquake – my contacts on the social networking site said the tsunami was heading toward New Zealand and would be here within hours.

So we’ve heard this before – a tsunami is on the way – don’t panic (yet). Do some quick research – so how big is it? 10cm or 10metres? Where will it hit? Should I phone home and warn the family?

The main New Zealand news websites gave conflicting information and seemed at least an hour behind the news on Twitter. Who could I trust? I found a lot of misleading information and hype from both the public and officials.

So I turned to the New Zealand, Australian and US government websites for the facts – they’d be accurate and up to date right?

Kissing the Lips of E-govt

Achieving e-Government compliance for public sector websites will require a makeover that’s greater than skin-deep. Zef Fugaz looks at the realities of putting public service websites on the operating table and making them skip to an e-Government beat. Trevor has spoken. By 2006 all public service websites will have to be well and truly on