With the recent increase in tsunami instances, the public is becoming aware of the tsunami alert systems that have been set up around the world. Tsunami is a Japanese word that simply means "big wave". Tsunamis occur when there has been an earthquake or a major landslide. The earthquake is usually underwater and the wave develops as a result of the displacement. The danger of a tsunami is that the main content of the wave does not necessarily appear at the water line of the ocean. It is carried at incredible speeds under the ocean. It isn't until it gets closer to land that the force is generally seen and felt. The first sign is the massive amount of water receding from the ocean coast, often exposing many areas and sea life. It is immediately followed by rushing waves that come ashore. The waves can be as few as one or multiple waves. The power of the water can enter the shoreline and move inland many miles, carrying with it the ability to move ships, devastate the land and property and harm lives. If there are a series of waves, it can drag people and property out to sea.

Tsunami alert systems have been established around the globe. They usually use detection devices set up on the ocean floor that are connected with water buoys as a communication method. These devices measure the changes in water pressure and sea level and relay the information via satellite to the watch stations that monitor the activity. The watch stations must act quickly for tsunami announcement. A tsunami can occur within minutes of an underwater earthquake. The stations use software to analyze the effect of the earthquake and the information received on the water. They then contact the corresponding relay stations within the countries that may be affected. Warning announcements are then broadcast via radio, television and outdoor warning signals.

Those areas that experience tsunamis more frequently than others have established specific outdoor warning signals and various parts of their communities have tsunami test drills. These drills are conducted in the same way fire and earthquake drills occur in other parts of the world. The main goal is to get the message out and get people to higher ground in a fast and efficient method.

The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) is developing a Tsunami Alert System (TAS) that will send automatic messages to all of the activated members who have signed up. The alert messages will be transmitted to their cell phones. TAS is designed to cover some of the countries where tsunamis are more prevalent: Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The research and installation of tsunami alert systems has come a long way since 2004, when there were only a few monitoring stations in the ocean. The equipment and technology is costly, but is considered a wise investment compared to the cost of land and property damage as well as loss of life. More countries are contributing to the technology so that people can be given sufficient alert time in a wider variety of methods to help to guarantee their safety.

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