Indonesia has most of the world’s earthquakes, tsunami and explosive volcanic eruptions. It is also one of the most densely populated places in the world, which is a formula for epic natural disasters that have happened many times in Indonesia’s past. The 2004 Sumatran earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami claimed around 180,000 lives in Indonesia alone.

The main focus in Indonesia is determining who’s most at risk for recurring earthquake and tsunami hazards. The Waves Initiative combines best practices in research of tsunamis and the earthquakes that cause them with mitigation strategies informed by engineering and social sciences, cultural expertise and compilations of previous events. In the geological sciences what happened in the recent past (last 10,000 years) is a key to forecasting what is likely going to happen in the future. When exactly geophysical hazards will strike is unknowable, but we can forecast who’s most at risk.  The way we bridge the gap between what science can demonstrate is significant hazard and what those most at risk know and are prepared for is by:

  • Reconstructing the large seismic and tsunami events in historical and geological records using numerical models.
  • Developing tsunami inundation maps based on the models for major coastal communities.
  • Erecting tsunami markers that communicate run-up heights of previous, but forgotten tsunamis.
  • Coordinating and testing local calling trees between threatened coastal communities using existing technologies and cultural practices.
  • Locally initiated evacuation drills informed by tsunami inundation maps and cultural leaders.
  • Planting vegetative barriers between the sea and coastal communities most at risk.
  • Updating building practices to withstand earthquake shaking.
  • measuring the likely shaking intensity of communities close to earthquake prone faults.

These activities have proven to make the difference between life and death for many communities impacted recently by earthquakes and tsunamis in the Indonesian region.

See: Indonesia Tsunami Construction Guidebook

Future projects include:

  • Community photographic projects to document local natural hazards.
  • Updating tsunami evacuation signs to include the 20-20-20 principle for tsunami safety (20 seconds of shaking can produce a tsunami, 20 minutes to evacuate to an elevation of 20 meters)
  • Conducting coastal reforestation in areas threatened by cyclones and tsunamis.