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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sri Lanka tested satellite disaster warning system to be used in India


Dec 27, 2007 (LBO) – A digital satellite radio disaster alert system that can be remotely activated which was field tested in Sri Lanka is now ready for use in the region to give early warning of tsunamis, officials said.

The Addressable Radio for Emergency Alert (AREA) system can send disaster alerts within seconds of its transmission by government authorities and also has the advantage of activating a siren.

The system is also expected to be adopted in India, which along with Sri Lanka, was among several countries that suffered from the 2004 tsunami.

The system, which has early-warning emergency messages, audio and visual alarms, was tested in a study conducted by LIRNEasia, a regional policy think tank, and Sarvodaya, a charity, in 32 Sri Lankan coastal villages.

"The product is digital satellite radio – it means there's no ground infrastructure at all," said Rohan Samarajeeva of LIRNEasia.

"It is a very small device about the size of my palm and can be taken around. It can give warnings in text and audio in multiple languages."

The device was designed for community-based disaster relief by LIRNEasia and WorldSpace, a US-based wireless technology major.

"We are planning to introduce the product in India as early as possible," WorldSpace's Senior Vice-President S Rangarajan, was quoted as saying in Indian media reports.

"Optimistically, we expect to launch the system especially in the coastal districts, which are prone to natural disasters, by 2008. Later, we plan to move to other regions," said Rangarajan, formerly programme director at Indian Space Research Organisation.

Radio transmission is a very quick way of communicating warnings but the key ingredient is that the radio must usually be on.

"The unique feature of this product is that it can wake you up. Even if the device is off, it can be activated by the disaster warning centre," Samarajeeva said.

"If you're watching another channel, it will automatically switch you to the disaster channel – a feature not found in any other technology that we know of."

The technology has two applications: it can either be used for public warnings or for a community-based warning model, like the one tested in the island under which designated people in disaster prone areas are given prior training.

A pilot project started in December 2005 has just concluded.

"We're now in the dissemination phase educating people in the region. We did it in a closed user group, as only government's have the authority for public warning systems, to see it in real life conditions."

Samarajeeva said they concluded after the trial that for the community-based kind of service they want to use it for, the ideal solution was to use it with another technology like mobile phone to provide two-way communications capability.

"For this sort of thing you don't rely on one technology. It's called complimentary redundancy."

The Closed User Group Digital Audio Broadcast station system that was tested uses digital satellite radios over a WorldSpace channel to broadcast information to remote communities.



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