To investigate whether or not people at risk from the 26 December 2004 tsunamis could have had better warning of the event.
This paper examines short‐term actions related to warning following the earthquake and long‐term actions related to setting up an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system prior to the disaster. The evidence is presented in the context of the long‐term processes needed to create and maintain successful warning systems.
The evidence shows that, based on the knowledge and procedures existing at the time, any expectation of effective warning prior to the tsunamis was unreasonable. On 26 December 2004, as much action was taken as feasible. Prior to the catastrophe, the Indian Ocean tsunami risks were acknowledged but no warning systems were implemented because other priorities were deemed to be higher.
This paper presents a snapshot of the complex issue of warning system development and implementation. Each national and regional case study deserves detailed attention. Further work would add to a more complete understanding of conditions before 26 December 2004.
This case study provides a reminder that planning for warnings must be done before extreme events, not following them. Successful warning systems require investment in a long‐term, ongoing process involving pre‐event planning, education, and awareness.
This paper provides an initial attempt at evaluating Indian Ocean tsunami warnings on 26 December 2004.
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