ABOUT TSUNAMIS: What we think of as "tidal waves" actually have nothing to do with tides. They're called tsunamis. They are enormous ocean waves triggered by undersea earthquakes, and they can travel hundreds of miles at speeds near 500 MPH -- as fast as commercial jets. Only a patchwork warning system was in place during the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 200,000 unsuspecting victims. Recently developed systems are designed to simplify warnings in any future tragedies. Some are also compatible with alerting systems designed for multi-lingual and special needs populations.
IMPROVING EMERGENCY ALERTS: With adequate warning, people can react more quickly to natural or manmade hazards and disasters. There are many different warning systems, tailored to specific types of disasters for delivery through certain channels, but there is no public warning system that can reach everyone in every location at any time. More coordination is needed. The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is now running in parallel to more traditional systems used by the U.S. National Weather Service. CAP is essentially a "content standard": a digital message format suitable to all types of alerts and notifications, including the U.S. National Emergency Alert System, the Internet, and systems designed for multilingual and special-needs populations. The sender can activate several different warning systems at once. People hear the warnings from several different sources, increasing the likelihood that they will heed those messages, rather than dismissing them as false alarms.
The American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and the American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.