5 Years After Deadly Indonesia Tsunami, Communities Better Prepared

Five years after a Sumatra Indonesia tsunami killed 230,000 people, officials say that more communities are taking the threat seriously, implementing warning systems and understanding that swift action is needed if a threat arises.

Since that tsunami devastated communities around the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it has received more than $90 million to expand the nation’s tsunami detection and warning capabilities. It has also received an additional $135 million for research, education and community preparedness, and for a global tsunami warning network and technology program.

In December 2004, lack of an effective international warning system contributed to unprecedented loss of life. Through NOAA, the U.S accelerated preparation for a potential tsunami along the U.S. coastline and efforts to build partnerships for an international warning program.

As a result of this investment in NOAA, the nation and the world are better prepared for the next big tsunami, according to NOAA, which cites a number of encouraging developments:

According to NOAA tsunami experts, the key to surviving a tsunami is people’s ability to receive warnings and willingness to act quickly to move inland or to higher ground.

“NOAA has strong capabilities to detect tsunamis and issue warnings, but at the end of the day we need people to pay attention to these warnings and immediately move to high ground to save their own lives,” said Jenifer Rhoades, tsunami program manager at NOAA’s National Weather Service. “A violent or persistent ground shake is nature’s warning. Don’t wait to take action. This knowledge can save countless lives, as it did when the recent tsunami struck American and Independent Samoa.”