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Written by Tom Welch   
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, killed an estimated 230,000 individuals from all around the landmasses that border the Indian Ocean. Even though there was a lag of up to several hours between when the earthquake happened and the impact of the tsunami, people were not prepared for what would happen. Individuals as far away as South Africa died as a result of the flood waters.

The total energy released by the earthquake was estimated to be as much as about 250 megatons of TNT, or approximately the same amount of energy used by the United States in 11 days. The seismic oscillation of the earth's surface was estimated to be between 8 and 12 inches, equivalent to the effect of the tidal forces caused by the sun and the moon. Shock waves of the earthquake were recorded as far away as Oklahoma, where vertical movements of the earth up to 3 mm were recorded. The sea bed is estimated to have risen by several meters, displacing massive volumes of water, which triggered the devastating tsunami waves. This raising of the sea bed has significantly reduced the capacity of the Indian Ocean, where some have estimated a rise of 0.1 mm in the global sea level.

In the aftermath of this disaster, the need for an early warning system in the Indian Ocean became apparent. In January of 2005 at the world conference of disaster reduction, the United Nations launched extensive plans to create an early warning system to lessen the impact of natural disasters all around the world. A short 18 months later, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was up and running, providing around-the-clock tsunami advisories. This system uses a variety of technologies all networked together to efficiently and effectively communicate information to all of the potentially affected areas.

In the technology field, we can learn a very important principle from this horrible disaster. It is a fundamental principle that governs most successful technology projects. The principle is that information is at the edge. In the case of the tsunami warning system, at the edge are a series of buoys and underwater ground sensors placed throughout the ocean. These instruments pick up information and relay it via satellite to various locations for analysis and distribution. In the technology field, at the edge are the users of the technology that we create. In the example of the early warning system, if the satellite refuses to relay the information it receives from the buoys and underwater censors, the system will fail. If we fail to listen to our users' comments, we can fail to deliver the types of products and services that can allow people to be more effective in their callings and responsibilities. A major purpose of this Web site is to create an information link between the edge (users) and the Church. By your involvement with this Web site and your participation in the forums, we can know what does or does not work for you. We can learn what features you need, what bugs you are experiencing, and what processes could use refinement. We encourage you to continue providing us with this "edge" information. Let us know what you think and how we can more effectively utilize this information link.


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