Preparing for earthquakes and tsunamis

Earthquakes often give certain weak signals before the actual major
earthquake occurs. Likewise, some time is required for the tsunami to arrive to the
coast of the disaster area. Electronic equipment can register an imminent danger since an electric
signal travels 100,000 times faster than an earthquake wave, and a tsunami wave proceeds even slower
than that. Fast reactions are required. Even a small anticipation is often sufficient for saving human lives.
The required time depends on the conditions: something between 10 seconds and 10 minutes may be enough,
and each second is important!

Today we have technology available that can save many people. However, unfortunately there is not enough time to save all.

1. Detecting a risk of accident
Earthquake wave a)
Constructing sensor networks in danger areas, such as in the
Mediterranean environment and particularly near the sea middle depths.
Sensors will then transmit an alarm via satellites to a command
center where the personnel are constantly monitoring computers ready
to activate alarms by one push of a button. Some push-buttons are
ready programmed. The person monitoring will then push a button that
corresponds to the current condition. A particular button gives a warning
to various areas in the language of this particular area.

b) Some people are using sensors themselves: certain laptop computers,
such as Mac and future Windows computers, are provided with a vibration
detector. Laptops can detect even very small vibrations with the purpose of
protecting the hard disk. The vibration source can be an earthquake(*), too, and importantly,
the anticipating vibrations. These same laptops often have a direct on-line connection to
the Internet. Thousands of laptops can provide a warning almost at the same
time, and when these messages are sent to the command center, the event can be
analyzed instantly. The center and the extension of the earthquake can be determined
based on small delays, laptop position information, and intensity differences.
The command center gets a very realistic view of the event within a short
moment. Laptops can be equipped with a fast software tool which
analyzes the vibration instantly to avoid, for example, that a passing
truck causes an alarm. An individual laptop cannot,
of course, cause a major alarm.

2. Informing about a danger of accident

a) The command center should have a direct access
to radio and television broadcasts - all channels -
at all times to inform about an imminent danger both in text
form and soon thereafter also verbally, simultaneously with the alarm sirens.

b) Connections to mobile phones should be made so that an SMS message is delivered,
controlled by the operators, in a correct language to all mobile phones at the same time.
The mobile phone gives a short and understandable direction. The message could be:
"Earthquake, go out immediately", "Tsunami, go up immediately", "Earthquake, move to door
opening". The commands could be even military-like. A short command could be followed by a
longer explanation of the condition after a few minutes. It is important that the mobile phone can
alarm during the night time as well. But how we regognise vandalists? Can we authorize an emergency
phone call somehow: massive broadcast - hide sign for masts and the message for persons?
Danger message can broadcast also for an ethnic group basis on select phone numbers
before a hostile attack - official notice, no agitation.
It is obvious that a warning can be sometimes exaggerated as in some areas
earthquakes occur every day. Unnecessary warnings should be cut down
but they cannot probably be completely removed. This is troublesome,
but need be tolerated. Even virus messages can come. Moreover, clear
anticipating vibrations do not always occur. An extensive
overview of the condition acquired by the command
center reduces erroneous alarms.

According as erroneous alarms are removed,
the confidence of the public increases.
Information can also be sent to the command
center from other type of sensors; for example,
sensors that detect sudden unaccountable changes in
the groundwater, radon gas and piezo-electrical changes in
the bedrock, or changes in the pressure and terrain shape. The moon
phase must be considered: full moon, new moon… Even the animal behavior
attracts attention, such as snakes coming up to the earth’s surface, and toads
disappear before earthquake. These informations as such does not cause an alarm, but
can increase the readiness state, the “finger sensitivity”.

The well-trained geologist officer sitting at the command table must be forgiven for errors, otherwise he/she would
not dare to use the command. The area controlled by the command center forms a natural entity, such
as the Mediterranean Sea with its environment in case of tsunami. To function, the system requires a
great amount of legislation and co-operation across national borders and language groups.
Warning messages will be better in future, when experience and knowledge will increase.

Buildings and houses cannot be saved quickly. They must be constructed to endure earthquakes
and tsunamis. You shall make houses of wood (building timber) rather than of brick, and the high tower
blocks must be made flexible steel structures by deep foundation. Earthquake-resistant
materials are timber, especially bamboo and steel.

Build your houses not close ashore because tsunamis, and because the polar glaciers melt rapidly now!
The beach ridges must build higher (~2 m/20 years) in some places, because every meter will save somewhat.
None of the height is not enough to save against all tsunamis. I have the opinion that the ten-meter height is sufficiently
safe height. The possible return water must open the gates. Near by ridges will be perhaps gardens and forests and
observation/shield tovers. Beach ridges help also against hurricanes. The same bank will save thousands
of years, and a tsunami will sure arrive between that time. Above bank can be build
a road or even highway.

Harbours and beachs are outside of the bank of course,
but the population and business will be lokated mainly inside.

Refer to Tietokone 6/2008, page 13 (MIT Technology Review (*))

Next Forest back!

Tapani Hakonen, Äänekoski, Finland World
Back to INDEX