Tsunami Alarm System
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1. Do I need the Tsunami Alarm System?

With the A3M Tsunami Alarm & Education System people are able to live by the sea or visit their favourite coastal destinations without concern about safety.

What does the A3M Tsunami Alarm & Education System offer its users?

  • Alarm & Education text messages in case of an impending tsunami to your mobile phone.
  • All-clear signal text message, as soon as any possibility of a danger can be excluded.
  • Newsletters to all given alarms by mail.
  • Regular Newsletter of the Tsunami Institute by mail.

Personal benefits as a user of the Tsunami Alarm System

  • Subscribers will be warned directly of an impending tsunami threat.
  • Even in remote areas one does not have to depend on public warning systems (slower and not available everywhere).
  • You will receive the warning quickly. Therefore, you have time to take appropriate precautions.

Do I need this service?

Tsunamis happen only 2-3 times a year worldwide. However, they can occur in almost any ocean. A tsunami can only be noticed by the coast once it arrives, or is about to arrive. Therefore, the only protection against tsunamis is a fast and reliable early warning system.

Customer experience with the Tsunami Alarm System

For over two years the Tsunami Alarm System has been used by tourists, business travellers and coastal inhabitants. During this time we have received a great deal of positive feedback. Many of our users have confirmed that they feel much more secure and untroubled when they stay at coastal areas, and have the Tsunami Alarm connected.

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2. Details of the A3M Tsunami Alarm System

How does the Tsunami Alarm System work?

The A3M Tsunami Alarm System receives earthquake and tsunami warning information from a multiplicity of seismic measuring stations and tsunami warning stations all over the world. Due to the measuring data and geological structures our alarm algorithm calculates the danger of a tsunami occurring. In case of a potential tsunami threat an alarm text message is sent instantly to the subscribers of the Tsunami Alarm System.

Where do the data and the information about the earthquakes come from? Are they reliable?

A large number of technical skills and resources are required in order to quickly warn of possible tsunamis. Seismic sensors measure earthquakes while pressure and speed sensors in the oceans assess fast changes in water quantities in the sea. Additionally, satellites constantly observe the earth and the oceans. Once noticeable changes are identified, early warning information checks swing into operation. Potential earth- and seaquakes are verified, the area concerned is identified and a forecast is computed. With incoming data from geophones, earthquakes and seaquakes are located with pin-point accuracy. Other technologies such as the measurement of the complex electrical resistance or changes in radon and other gas concentrations are also used to forecast tsunamis. This global network of information is very fast and reliable.

Do I have to install anything on my mobile phone?

You don't need any special soft- or hardware to receive the A3M Tsunami Alarm. The quick and easy registration for the A3M Tsunami Alarm & Education System (the input of your mobile phone number and contact data) is sufficient to use our service.

Where does the A3M Tsunami Alarm System work?

The A3M Tsunami Alarm System works everywhere in the world covered by GSM networks. Assuming your mobile telephone is logged into a GSM network in the country where you are staying, you will receive Alarms. Even in developing countries and in remote areas, the GSM network is usually as well-developed as in highly developed countries. When you travel in areas accessible to tourists, you should not encounter any problems with the reception of mobile phone signals. The following principle applies: Wherever you can use your mobile telephone to make calls, you will be able to receive tsunami warnings.

How do I recognise a Tsunami Alarm?

When we send a Tsunami Alarm to our subscribers, it is particularly important that it does not go unnoticed. For this purpose, we send 3 SMS messages back-to-back. In this way, you become aware of the message on your display at any time of day or night and will be able to ascertain when and where the tsunami is expected. The A3M Tsunami Alarm System reliably ensures that our subscribers and other people you may want to warn can apply life-saving measures several minutes before the arrival of a destructive tsunami.

Are false alarms possible and what happens in such cases?

False alarms (alarms which were issued because of a potential tsunami threat, but were not followed by an actual tsunami) are possible. Through a series of scientific research projects our enterprise does the utmost to reduce false alarms. In principle, you can be assured that in case of an alarm there is a potential tsunami threat. Therefore, every alarm should be taken seriously.

Advance warning time before the tsunami arrives

The A3M Tsunami Alarm System normally sends out a warning minutes after a seaquake which could produce a tsunami. Your personal advance warning time depends upon the position of the seaquake to the respective coastal section. I.e. the greater your distance to the seaquake epicentre, the more time you have to seek safety after the warning.

How do I know if my area could be affected by the tsunami?

When an alarm message is sent out, the affected regions are listed on the display of your mobile phone. For security reasons all our users get the message. In the case of your region not being affected you have the chance to inform friends and relatives, who are perhaps staying in a threatened area.

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3. Operating the A3M Tsunami Alarm System

What do I as a user of the A3M Tsunami Alarm System have to do?

Keep your mobile phone within earshot and switched on. Check regularly that your mobile phone is logged into a GSM network. You should do so especially before going to sleep. In areas with a weaker coverage you might not have reception at every spot in your room. It may already help to reposition the phone within the room or place it a windowsill. Wherever you can use your mobile telephone to make calls, you will be able to receive tsunami warnings.

Do I have to install anything on my mobile phone?

You don't need any special soft- or hardware to receive the Tsunami Alarm. The quick and easy registration for the A3M Tsunami Alarm System (the input of your mobile phone number and contact date) is sufficient to use our service.

How do I receive my alarm while travelling in foreign countries? Must I always have my mobile switched on?

Once you have subscribed, you will need to carry your mobile phone with you. Always leave your mobile phone on and ensure that it is logged into the GSM network (the login process to another GSM network occurs automatically in a foreign country, provided there is coverage). That is all you need to do. Wherever you can use your mobile telephone to make calls, you will be able to receive tsunami warnings.

Are there any hidden costs, charges or other international phone costs?

No. As long as you do not make or receive any phone calls from your mobile phone, there is no further charge for using the A3M Tsunami Alarm System. Our text message service is free wherever you are in the world. If you do not want to receive calls and incur additional charges, ensure that you switch off your voicemail-box (or answering service).

How does an alarm message look like?

Example of an alarm message:

Tsunami Alarm! Region: Molucca Sea. Mag = 8.3. Local Time: 20:27. Risk: high. Maybe affected: Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Japan

  • Region: Epicentre of the seaquake
  • Mag: Magnitude of the seaquake measured on the Richter scale
  • Local Time: Time of the seaquake according to the time zone of the seaquake
  • Risk: high, medium or low
  • Maybe affected: Regions which may be affected by a tsunami

Can I select the language of the alarm message?

At present, the alarm will only be transmitted in English.

How do I know that there is no more threat of a tsunami?

As soon as there is no more threat of a tsunami we send out an All-Clear Signal. Example of an All-Clear Signal:

„All Clear Signal - A Tsunami is NO longer expected according to our data and danger prognosis. Thank you very much for using the Tsunami Alarm System.”

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4. Behaviour in case of an alarm

Things to do in advance

  • Be sure to keep your mobile phone with you and check regularly that your mobile phone is logged into a GSM network (i.e. that you are able to make phone calls).
  • Check for tsunami-safe areas on site which meet the following requirements: Located at least twenty to thirty meters above sea level or more than three kilometres/two miles inland. These areas should be accessible within 15 minutes walking distance from your house/hotel/beach.

Behaviour in case of an alarm

When a tsunami is on its way, you can save yourself - provided that you are warned at least ten minutes before the tsunami arrival and that you take the alarm seriously.

  • First of all, check the tsunami alarm message, if you are staying within the region that might be affected by the tsunami take immediate action.
  • Don't try to save your belongings – your priority must always be to get to high ground!
  • Go IMMEDIATELY to places that are high or are located further away from the coast. Avoid river valleys. Escaping into high buildings may offer you protection, however, this is not guaranteed. The building could be swept away by the tsunami or even collapse.

Behaviour after a tsunami has hit the coast

  • Do NOT return to disaster areas to recover your belongings – there might be more destructive waves to come! A tsunami normally consists of more than one wave. These waves arrive at the coast with intervals ranging from more than ten minutes up to more than an hour. The first wave might not be the highest!
  • Stay on high ground until there is an official all-clear signal by local authorities.

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5. General information about tsunamis

How do I recognise a tsunami?

In most cases you will not be able to recognise an upcoming tsunami at all. A destructive tsunami can arrive completely unexpected. Irrespective of technical warning systems, in some cases there are natural warning signs, which precede the arrival of a tsunami wave. Whenever one or a combination of the following phenomena can be observed, the probability of a tsunami is extremely high and it is strongly advisable to evacuate to high ground:

  • a heavy earthquake – when you are barely able to stay on your feet
  • an unexpected retreat of the sea, revealing large stretches of the sea bottom
  • a loud rumbling like the sound of a train or airplane

However, it must be pointed out that in most cases it is too late for escape when a tsunami wave hits the coast, due to the high speed of the water ashore. Therefore, you should take immediate safety action to save your life as soon as a warning is released.

Where do tsunamis occur?

Tsunamis occur most frequently in the Pacific, due to the large tectonically active zones. Severe tsunamis can though happen in geologically less active oceans, such as the Indian Ocean or the Mediterranean. According to a study more than 100 tsunamis occurred historically in the Mediterranean, the most popular European region for holiday-makers. On account of the dense population in coastal areas worldwide – more than 50% of the world population lives here permanently – and the high attractiveness of these regions as holiday destinations, these areas are particularly vulnerable.

The following map displays the countries with high, medium or low tsunami risk, coloured according to risk levels.

RED: High risk of Tsunamis / ORANGE: Moderate risk of Tsunamis / YELLOW: Low risk of Tsunamis


Occurence of Tsunamis
Occurence of Tsunamis

Tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean

Tsunamis occur most frequently in the Pacific Ocean: More than three of four tsunamis over the last 100 years happened here. Tsunamis are mainly caused by earthquakes along the "Pacific Ring of Fire". Within this belt surrounding the Pacific almost 75% of all volcanos worldwide can be found. Furthermore, about 90% of all earthquakes worldwide are generated by tectonic activities here. The major part of the quakes occurs undersea in low depth and is characterized by high magnitudes and a great vertical off-set of the sea bottom. Quakes of this nature are the chief cause of tsunamis.

One of the most heavily affected countries of this region is Japan where about 200 tsunamis occurred over the past 100 years. In about one of five cases casualties were reported.

Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is also haunted regularly by tsunamis. In the last 100 years alone, more than 60 tsunami events with various magnitudes occurred here. The most recent and also largest event in this region took place on 26 December 2004, when a seaquake caused a disastrous tsunami, which flooded about 10,000 kilometres of coastal regions in the Indian Ocean and caused the loss of 280,000 lives.

Experts criticised the fact that despite the known risk there had not been a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean, nor a working communication structure for the transmission of the warning messages to the population affected. Hence, a warning published by the Pacific Tsunami Warning System on Hawaii, predicting a flood wave in the Indian Ocean, did not find its way to the people in charge. Thus, for the most part an evacuation of the coastal areas was not carried out.

Tsunamis in the Mediterranean

From the tectonic perspective the Mediterranean sets the boundary between the Eurasian and the African plate. Thus, tsunamis can also occur in European waters due to earthquakes caused by the African plate drifting northwards underneath the Eurasian plate. These seismic activities account for the Mediterranean being the ocean with the second highest number of historic tsunamis worldwide, namely with a quota of 10%. The last noteworthy tsunami took place in 1999, when the region of Izmit was hit by a wave being 2 meters on average.

Tsunamis in the Atlantic Ocean

Even the coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean are not safe from tsunamis even though the number of the tsunami incidents in historic times has been much lower than in other oceans. The major part of the tsunamis here concentrates on the Atlantic coast of the Caribbean, because here the Atlantic plate strikes the Caribbean plate. But even the European coasts of the Atlantic Ocean are affected: In the year 1755 a heavy earthquake occurred off the coast of south Portugal, which caused a tsunami. The wave hit a large part of the Portuguese coast and destroyed all parts of Lisbon lying near the coast almost completely. All in all between 60,000 and 100,000 people died of the aftermath of the quake and the tsunami.

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