Mobile App to Advance Tsunami Warnings in Fiji

By: Anare Leweniqila, Director of National Disaster Management Office in Fiji

A tsunami drill in five schools with 3,422 participants in Suva, Fiji. Photo: UNDP Pacific

The Fiji National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) developed and launched its first ever National Tsunami Response Plan in 2017. Following the launch, a Cabinet decision was made for a National Tsunami Drill to be conducted by the NDMO.

Anare Leweniqila, director of NDMO Fiji. Photo: Fijivillage.com

When I joined the NDMO in late 2017, this was one of the Cabinet decisions that I inherited. With the limited resources in terms of technical capacity and financial support we started to work closely with our stakeholders to stimulate our planning and discussions.

This led to a series of multi-stakeholder meetings to map out a strategy to ensure a National Tsunami Drill is conducted as per Cabinet decision.

It was identified that the NDMO and all relevant stakeholders were not at a preparedness level to ensure a successful tsunami drill is conducted. This led to a Tsunami drill design that will ensure that a series of drills are conducted to allow relevant stakeholders and the public to better understand their roles and responsibilities.

Photo: UNDP Pacific

In 2017, NDMO was approached by UNDP and the Ministry of Education for the conduct of the Tsunami Drill Exercise in 5 schools along the Suva Peninsula. This provided the opportunity for NDMO to launch the series of tsunami drills that will culminate in a National Tsunami Drill.

The tsunami drill for schools was through the “Reducing the Loss of Lives of Schoolchildren from Tsunamis in Asia-Pacific through Better Awareness and Preparedness” project. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa were supported by this project through stakeholder consultations, drill preparation and the execution of the drill.

In the design of this Tsunami drill, NDMO decided to evaluate its information and communications technology (ICT) capability for Tsunami response by incorporating the mobile application geoBingAn, that was developed specifically to strengthen NDMO’s ICT and GIS capability through an Asian Development Bank (ADB) Regional Technical Capacity Assistance in 2017.

The mobile app introduced a new dimension to the effectiveness and efficiency of disaster relief and response coordination as it allows real time geotagged data or geotagged incident reports from the community to be captured and assessed at Emergency Operation Centers before first responders are mobilized.

Watch a video about how the mobile mobile application that provides real time geotagged data.

In the current design of the tsunami drill target community, schools and organizations will be using the mobile app to coordinate the execution of the respective Tsunami Evacuation Plans. This enables the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) at NDMO to receive real time updates from these communities. In addition, it allows NDMO to evaluate the execution of community Tsunami Evacuation Plans and provide recommendations to strengthen existing plans. In the first Tsunami drill, the mobile application provides coherence of reports received from five schools. The evacuation progress reports of the 5 participating schools were received by the NEOC through the mobile App.

This enables the NDMO to track the location, movement and status of the five schools during the tsunami drills. All responding agencies logged into the mobile App receives real time updates of the evacuation drill reports from the five schools. This ensures that all responding agencies closely monitor the situation and reduces the risk of creating confusion among all partners. However, the NDMO holds the control of providing responding agencies the command to respond and return stores.

Photo: Merana Kitone/UNDP Pacific

The use of the mobile App at the National Emergency Operation Centre was evaluated and it was found that in-coming reports were rapid [at a fast pace] compared to the much slower reporting pace from other hazards such as flood and tropical cyclone. The mobile App enables the Emergency Operatioan Centre staff to be better informed of the following:

The mobile application provides a digital footprint of every tsunami drill exercise which NDMO can always review from time to time. The NDMO also intends to integrate the mobile app in other hazard response demonstration drills.

Overall, the drill has highlighted the importance of a Tsunami Evacuation Plan for any school in tsunami high risk zones, formalized by the NDMO and independently evaluated.

Photo: UNDP Pacific