New app could save thousands of lives when the next tsunami strikes

The following article provided by the team developed the TsunamiApp


(January 31, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka knows all too well about the devastating consequences of tsunamis. The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 claimed more than 30,000 Sri Lankan lives, and left more than 5,000 missing. In a country with a population of nearly 21 million, these figures are staggering, accounting for 0.14% of the total population.

With each passing year, tsunamis pose a greater threat to coastal populations. But thanks to an innovative technological advancement, we will soon be better positioned than ever before to survive the unthinkable.

Working with experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S.-based startup has created TheTsunami, an innovative app designed to protect coastal residents and visitors from the next catastrophe.

How the app will work

TheTsunami app’s powerful server will be tapped into a global network of dozens of buoys designed to detect tsunami-related disturbances at a moment’s notice.

The instant the server detects a disturbance, the app will provide users with real-time alerts and all of the information they will need to protect themselves and their loved ones. This will include the following:

  • A countdown to when the tsunami is expected to hit
  • Live updates of the height and speed of the wave
  • The option to share the relevant data with friends and loved ones
  • A comprehensive evacuation plan, showing users the nearest safe zone and how to get there
  • News updates relevant to the tsunami
  • Confirmation once each user has reached the safe zone

The app will also protect flood victims. During any sort of flooding – whether caused by a tsunami, a hurricane or any other disaster – stranded users can tap the app’s SOS button to be immediately connected with all relevant emergency professionals in the vicinity. These professionals will then be alerted to the user’s exact location. Thus, users can focus on tending to their immediate needs rather than calling 911 and attempting to discern their own whereabouts. The technology will work even when GPS signals are at their weakest.

So long as the coast is clear, users can open and explore the app to double-check that everything’s ok, to help craft a tsunami/flood survival plan, to read up on the latest news or to learn more about TheTsunami and the technologies they rely on.

TheTsunami app is designed in a minimalistic and straightforward fashion. It will also be fully automated. The elimination of the human factor will save time, ensure against human error and – as a result of both of these elements – save lives.

During tsunami events, the app will only need to receive 100KB of data in order to assess the key risk parameters, so even a bad GPRS connection shouldn’t be an obstacle for users seeking risk updates.

Alexander Artyukhin, the founder of TheTsunami

Calculating the route to the safe zone will require more data traffic than the initial messages, but if there is a shortage of GPRS signal (due to earthquake damages of cell phone stations, for example) the user can still use the app’s built-in compass to navigate his or her way to safety.

The story behind the app

“It has always been my goal to save lives,” said Alexander Artyukhin, the founder of TheTsunami. “My background is in finance and IT, so I figured I was never going to end wars or cure diseases. But I’ve always been passionate about the environment, and eventually that combined with my professional background led me to come up with TheTsunami.”

To make the app a reality, Artyukhin consulted with Eddie Bernard, former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL). Bernard is a world-renowned subject matter expert and consultant on matters pertaining to tsunami warning systems, mitigation, research and education.

Bernard was happy to work with Artyukhin because TheTsunami app really squared with the goal he’s focused on since retiring from the NOAA: discovering how to use NOAA warning technology to reduce casualties during tsunamis.

“I’ve done research for the past 45 years on all aspects of tsunami research – flooding, models, observations, buoys,” said Bernard. “I have always thought about how this information would be used by [coastal populations]. And so, since I’ve retired, I’ve focused exclusively on mitigation. I’m really interested in how people are going to be able to take the information that our warning produces and all of the technology [the NOAA has] developed over the years into action that can save their lives.”

Tsunami preparedness and response tips

It is crucial to familiarize yourself in advance with the most hazardous locations in your area, as well as the nearest safe zones and evacuation routes. According to the NOAA, most coastal communities should already have designated evacuation routes. Check with your local emergency authorities to find out if your area already has a plan in place.

The NOAA advises those affected by a tsunami to attempt to move 100 feet above sea level or one mile inland. With respect to moving as far above sea level as possible, the solution is not always to head for the hills. Very tall buildings can also provide refuge during tsunamis.

According to Bernard, it’s inadvisable to drive when fleeing from an approaching tsunami. He pointed to an example during the Japanese tsunami of 2011 when bumper-to-bumper traffic caused many people to abandon their cars in the middle of the road. This left many drivers who chose not to abandon their cars stranded when the tsunami hit.

He recommends fleeing on foot, by bicycle, or by any other means that will help you get to safety as quickly as possible. TheTsunami app bears all of these factors in mind when calculating individualized escape routes.

The status of TheTsunami app

TheTsunami is expected to reach app stores in mid-summer of this year.

The app’s design and development have been completed. TheTsunami team has signed a memorandum of understanding to gain access to the NOAA’s network of buoys.

All they need now to make the app a reality is to gather the funds required to secure access to the buoy network and to fine-tune the server.

To raise the remaining funds, they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on 15 February 2017. To help make this life-saving app a reality, please consider donating. Every bit counts.

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