The Establishment of a Cost-effective Local Tsunami Warning System for Selected High Risk Coastal Communities of the Philippines

» An ICT for the Environment Project

Cooperating Agency: Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD)
Research and Development Station: Advanced Science and Technology Institute, ASTI Building, Technology Park Complex, C.P. Garcia Avenue, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Site of Implementation: Coastal towns and cities of Metro Manila (other coastal areas will be added after successful pilot testing)
Target Beneficiaries: Local Government Units (LGUs) along the coastal areas

Project Description:

EWST installed in CorregidorThe Tsunami Warning System, as the name implies, is a warning system for coastal inhabitants on an incoming tsunami. Previously, PHIVOLCS strategically placed sea level rise sensors located in Lubang Island to monitor impending Tsunami that may affect coastal communities facing the Manila Trench. This project aims to complement this sensor system and establish a cost-effective local tsunami warning system to warn high-risk coastal communities of a possible incoming tsunami.

Instead of using expensive imported satellite communication system, GSM-GPRS data communication modules developed by ASTI will be used to substantially lower down the cost of the tsunami detection network. A GSM data receiving server will be set up at the PHIVOLCS Data Receiving Center (PDRC) where all the signals from the tsunami sensors will be received and consolidated. A Rapid Tsunami Decision Tool consisting of appropriate data visualization, interpretation and decision software, together with rapid communication tools, will be developed to rapidly relay warning messages to communities. The rapid communication tools and mass alerting systems will include the GSM-triggered sirens earlier developed by DOST-ASTI. These sirens are currently being tested as part of the Manila Bay Tsunami Detection System.

The wet and dry sensors of PHIVOLCS will be complemented by the Ultrasonic Tsunami Sensors also developed by ASTI, which will be installed in all the proposed tsunami detection sites. These sensors will record the complete history of the tsunami amplitude and the tsunami waveforms will be transmitted to the PDRC using GSM-GPRS modems. In case the GSM-GPRS communication is disabled, the system will automatically switch on the satellite module to provide the redundant communication.

On top of this, the system can also be used to warn of other natural calamities such as lahar flow, typhoon, flash flood, and land slide, among others through minor changes in the program.


Develop a warning system along coastal regions that will notify inhabitants of an incoming tsunami;
Mitigate drastic effects of a tsunami by giving coastal residents ample time to run and seek higher grounds;
Study an alternate solution for satellite technology in transmitting information from the monitoring station; and
Complement PHIVOCLS’ existing tsunami monitoring and warning system.

Related Literature:

PHIVOLCS is currently proposing a local tsunami warning system that will detect an impending tsunami affecting the coastal communicities facing the Manila Trench. These areas are located west of the Philippines which are presently outside the coverage of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the Northwest Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (NWPTIC). Locally fabricated sensors will be used to detect suddent recession or inundation of seawater which is a sign of a possible or occurring tsunami. After a tsunami is confirmed, PHIVOLCS will then issue a warning through FAX or phone to agencies responsible for information dissemination. The EWST project will then be responsible for ensuring that the warning is sent as fast as possible to coastal areas that will be directly hit by the tsunami.

Neighboring countries are currently implementing the issuance of a tsunami warning through SMS. However, as cellphone users have experienced, SMS messages tend to be delayed or even fail to arrive to the recipient. Another disadvantage when using SMS to send warnings is when the cellphone is turned off, or worse, when the affected coastal area has few cellphone users. Thus, instead of sending SMS to the inhabitants of the affected coastal area, the EWST project will tap the GSM technology to ‘call’ the siren so that it will automatically be triggered.

System Diagram (DETECTION and WARNING)

Tsunami Detection - System Diagram
Tsunami Warning - System Diagram