The threat and preparedness for natural disasters is among the recognized urgent competencies that have to be developed. According to the dialogue sponsored by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2006), the experiences of the Asian boxing day tsunami and the Atlantic hurricanes have highlighted that the impact of such events are often beyond the existing capability of even the most developed or prepared countries. In Southeast Asia, the threats of tsunami is still a primary concern, particularly with research identifying the region’s natural vulnerability to another sever tsunami by virtue of its geographic characteristics such as the Sunda Trench (Davis, 2005). There are fears that if tsunami a close to the magnitude such as that of Asian boxing day tsunami where to develop from the seduction at the Sunda Trench, the world may witness at the very least double of the devastation form the original tsunami.
To mitigate these issues, policies have to focus on international collaboration, regional cooperation and national competency. International collaborations will have to focus on the development of research and development of support channels before and after the impact of a regional tsunami. On a regional level, efforts should focus on developing warning systems, coordinated response and monitoring systems as well as standardized programs for spatial planning and risk identification. One of the reasons for such a “regionalistic” perspective for the Southeast Asian region is the growing interdependence of its industries and commerce and at the same time the growing intimacy of its societies (Rincon, 2005).
On a national perspective, each country must become committed to developing the emergency systems it needs so that it can be able to address local impact effectively which in turn will allow it further competency in aiding its worst hit neighbors. This is also a realization that though the region’s effort to develop a tsunami response system is a common concern, the mechanism of the threat differs from ach other as much as their perspectives of the threat differ. For example, the Philippines’ traditional tsunami threat has always been that from the Pacific, thus its closer coordination with the Hawaii-based US monitoring systems while, as seen in the most recent tsunamis, most of the rest of the region faces greater threat from the Indian ocean (UNESCO, 2006). Therefore, Southeast Asian countries have to develop unique strategies and at the same endeavor to unify these strategies within the region to promote a regional competency to respond to regional tsunami threats such as presented by the continuing subduction in the Sunda Trench.
Regardless of the level of response, there are common considerations: impact prevention, mitigation and recovery. To avoid the infrastructure and human damage of tsunami’s critical institutions such as hospitals, schools and government offices should not be in the proximity tsunami avenues. Civil defense must include response to the tsunamis in both and private sectors. Communities must have their own tsunami response systems and will allow them not only safety but also continued communication with government services. It is important that order can be restored immediately to be able to assess damage, needs and rehabilitation. In all of these activities, the government is critical in ensuring that tsunami impact issues can be addressed but there should be realization that no reaction to the tsunami can be as effective as preparedness can on an individual and community level.
Considering such an impact, it is therefore critical that emergency and response become a priority of all governments in the region. The inevitable of tsunami is a fact in Southeast Asia given its geography both in terms of geophysics and topology. At the same time, the layout of its key cities and nature of primary livelihoods and industries are situated close to marine areas. Another key factor to consider is that many of the countries in the region lack the socioeconomic and political structures, mechanisms and capabilities to support the operational needs of emergency and response plans sufficient in the event of a major tsunami (UNESCO, 2006). The lack of such a competency will limit the government’s ability to develop spatial planning and control in areas that most vulnerable. This will also limit the countries ability to develop infrastructures to monitor tsunamis, develop research and literature and institute the emergency and response plans.
Davis, Katharine (2005). Asia primed for next big quake. New Scientist News Service 16 March. Retrieved on June 21, 2007 from http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/tsunami/dn7157-asia-primed-for-next-big-quake-.html
Rincon, Paul (2005). New Asian quake threat warning. BBC News 16 March. Retrieved on June 21, 2007 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4354217.stm
United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2006). International Round-Table Dialogue on Earthquake and Tsunami Risks in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea Region. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: UNESCO