UNDP strengthens tsunami early-warning system in Thailand

Community-based approach to widen local safety awareness

July 29, 2005 Bangkok: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today signed an agreement with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC ) to support the Royal Thai Government's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) in implementing a community-based, multi-hazard early warning and disaster preparedness system in Thailand.

The End-to-End Early Warning System and Preparedness for Tsunami and other Natural Hazards in Southern Thailand project seeks to develop an overall culture of safety that starts with a tsunami early-warning system and ends with a heightened awareness of disaster planning and mitigation at all levels of Thai society.

The US$500,000 project, implemented by ADPC and financed by UNDP, will assist the Thai Government in establishing both national and regional tsunami early warning systems.

"Effective tsunami early warning depends just as much, if not more, on community involvement and awareness as it does on high-tech solutions," said Joana Merlin-Scholtes, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Resident Representative in Thailand. "This project taps into the knowledge base of everybody from villagers, to tambon leaders, to government ministries and international experts to create disaster action plans that will save lives and property in the event of future natural and man-made disasters.

"Most importantly, this project will contribute to the Thai Government's long-term vision for establishing a stronger 'culture of safety' through improved risk management throughout Thailand."

The project begins with the installation of two sea level gauge stations on the west coast of Thailand. Located at Ko Taphao off the coast of Phuket, and at Ko Miang, in the Similan Islands, the multi-purpose coastal gauges will monitor sea-level activity, storm surges and climate change data. The stations are to be connected via a satellite link to a wider regional network of 18 similar gauges across the Indian Ocean operated by the Global Sea-level Observation System (GLOSS). This will provide Thailand with a greater level of accuracy in regards to tsunami detection and evaluation thereby increasing Thailand's early warning capacity. Training will also be provided to the persons concerned with the operation and maintenance of the sea level stations.

In the next part of the project, ADPC will train DDPM personnel to build community-based disaster risk management, community preparedness and search and rescue capabilities. DDPM trainers will work with organizations such as the Thai Red Cross, the boy scouts, girl scouts, rotary clubs, and others to integrate emergency response into community level planning. This approach has been developed and tested by ADPC based on unique projects implemented throughout Asia, including Thailand.

ADPC will also work in cooperation with the DDPM and the Thai Red Cross to raise awareness in vulnerable communities about disaster planning and to assess their exposure to disaster risks. Sustainable preparedness and awareness plans will be developed by applying lessons learnt and cutting-edge expertise using approaches that have been developed and tested by ADPC throughout Asia.

These plans will form the foundations of a regional disaster safety network that will cement relationships between response agencies like the Thai Red Cross, the Royal Thai Government and many international agencies brought on board throughout the process by ADPC.

"This multi-layered risk management approach will hopefully be infused into all civic planning activities in Thailand," said Dr Suvit Yodmani, Executive Director of ADPC. "While the tsunami is being used as a springboard to implement this project, its benefits will go well beyond tsunamis or any other natural disasters. Managing man-made disasters such as train wrecks or chemical spills will be made easier by the forming of action plans in advance with local communities."

UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. Since the onset of the Thailand tsunami disaster, UNDP has dedicated almost 6 million US dollars towards programs that restore livelihoods, rehabilitate the natural environment and assist the government in disaster preparedness.

ADPC has spent the last 20 years providing disaster risk management technical assistance, program management, training, public awareness, disaster risk management information materials and more to governments throughout all of Asia, including Thailand.

For more information please contact:

Punnipa Ruangtorsak (66) 02 288 2130, UNDP Communications Department

Dennis Duncan (66) 02 288 2646, UNDP Communications Department