Late last year (on 9 November 2019), on the Greek island of Kos, the last step of the Tsunami Last Mile project - called the “KOSWAVE19-LM” exercise - took place. The Tsunami Last Mile project was initiated by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), following two tsunami events in the Aegean Sea on 12 June and 20 July 2017, which affected the coasts of Greece and Turkey. In both cases, tsunami warnings issued at central level did not reach local authorities to enable the timely alerting of the exposed population.
In agreement with and supported by DG ECHO (the Commission’s department for humanitarian aid and civil protection), the JRC designed an innovative prototype for a local tsunami warning network aimed at solving the so-called “Last Mile” issue - namely the timely provision of alert information to the local population, in the worst case scenario of near-to-shore tsunami events. The Tsunami Last Mile prototype system relies on a suite of technological solutions, installed locally, that can detect tsunami events and alert the community in question in a timely fashion. This system foresees integration with the national tsunami warning system, ingesting national alert messages, to confirm or integrate what is detected locally.
During the KOSWAVE19-LM exercise - which started at 10:31 (local time) and lasted about 4 hours - the full local emergency management system (i.e. Municipal Civil Protection, Fire Service, Police, Municipal Police, Ambulance Service, Kos General Hospital, Greek Red Cross and Hellenic Rescue Team) was mobilized. At national level, officers of the Hellenic National Tsunami Warning Centre participated from the National Observatory of Athens. The Secretary General for Civil Protection, Nikos Chardalias, personally followed the exercise on site and participated with great interest in the immediate "after-action" debriefing. At European level, besides JRC, DG ECHO was represented and fully involved in evaluation of the exercise.
The Tsunami Last Mile network was proved to work properly, with only minor technical refinements needed. The integration into the TLM network of KATWARN - a mobile phone application for public warnings, developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute - was agreed and successfully performed after some adaptation effort. The application was triggered by the TLM network and sent timely warning messages (in Greek and in English), enabling effective warning of the selected receivers. Full integration between the local TLM network and the national tsunami warning service was demonstrated: National Observatory of Athens (NOA) personnel successfully interacted with the local TLM network, manually sending national warning messages from Athens to the Tsunami Alerting Device (TAD) panels in Kos, which were correctly and timely visualized.
As part of the exercise, students of the Kos elementary and high schools were involved as population target groups, to be evacuated along the evacuation routes - where temporary ISO-approved standard tsunami signs were positioned - and to gather in the assembly areas, which were identified by the TLM project. The evacuation time was relatively short, with students reaching the assembly areas within 10 minutes (compared with the first arrival of the 2017 tsunami in Kos, which was about 13-14 minutes).
A meeting with the local administrators was planned, once the exercise evaluation results would be available, in order to present the results and discuss possible follow up activities after the end of the project. Final evaluation of the system will also form the basis for future implementations of the TLM technology: the European Commission has already scheduled a second phase of the implementation of this concept in two more Mediterranean countries, and in Indonesia.
Alessandro Annunziato and Marzia Santini
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) (M. Santini - formerly Italian Civil Protection Department / Seconded National Expert at JRC)
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CAPTION FOR FIGURE: [ With 433 participants, the successful tsunami exercise in Kos was also a good opportunity to raise awareness of the alert system among the local population. Here we see the European Commission’s team at the end of the exercise: Marzia Santini, Olimpia Imperiali (DG ECHO), Alessandro Annunziato and Daniele Galliano. © European Commission 2020. ]