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Limitations and challenges of early warning systems: A case study of the 2018 Palu-Donggala Tsunami

Despite progress in policy measures, early warning and risk information initiatives in Indonesia, the 2018 tsunami of Palu and Donggala showed that significant challenges remain. The study was commissioned by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to examine the effectiveness of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS) in response to the biggest disaster of 2018.

The study focused on the downstream aspects, known as the “last mile” of communication, to understand the community’s response during the earthquake and tsunami event and highlighting causes of the system’s ineffectiveness.

Findings showed that the end-to-end early warning system needs to be strengthened to effectively bridge the gaps between the upstream and downstream sides of the early warning chain to ensure timely community action. This report offers a number of recommendations to help ensure that tsunami early warning systems be society-based, where the approach is to strengthen the capacity of individuals and communities to have the ability to recognize the threat and take action to avoid disaster.