Prof Ho was the Director of the National Oceanography Directorate in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) when the government decided to put in place a multi-million ringgit National Tsunami Early Warning System (NTEWSM) in 2005.
He said the Tsunami Early Warning System comprises a series of seismic monitoring stations to detect earthquakes and a network of coastal tidal gauges to monitor abnormal changes in sea level. In 2005, the National Seismic Network was upgraded with 3 more seismological stations added at Senai, Bario/Mulu and Lahat Datu to the existing 12 stations, while 6 new water levels and tide monitoring stations were installed on 6 selected outpost islands besides the existing 30 tidal gauges.
Two deep ocean buoys were acquired and placed â one in Indonesian waters off the island of Rondo and another off Pulau Layang-Layang in South China Sea â for better detection of undersea earthquake, and a third targeted for placement in the Sulu-Sulawesi region The information transmitted from the buoys is relayed via satellite communication to the National Tsunami Early Warning Centre located in the Malaysian Meteorological Services Department, Petaling Jaya.
The system enables the Centre to disseminate earthquake information and tsunami warning within 15 minutes from the time of the event. Among the channels used to warn the public are the sirens, TV, radio, community PA system, mobile phone text messaging, and services provided by the civil defence infrastructure.
Prof Ho said that putting the NTEWSM system in place is but the first step as much downstream work remains to be done. âWe cannot say the system is effective until we attain a situation where all persons in vulnerable coastal communities are able to respond appropriately and in a timely manner upon recognition that a potentially destructive tsunami is approaching. Success depends on political commitment, scientific determination, data sharing, capacity building, national coordination, local empowerment, and public education and awareness,â he quipped.