[LINK] Tsunami warning system overloaded

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Sun Jan 4 15:06:41 AEDT 2009

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a bulletin at 0211z 04 Jan 
2009 on a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. The 
reports of tsunami wave activity were not serious (Saipan US 0.10m, 
Tosashimizu Shikoku 0.15m). However, a potentially serious problem is 
that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center web server was not responding:

     Message pacific.2009.01.04.020955

     Fatal error: Maximum execution time of 25 seconds exceeded in 
/ptwc/www/html/include/inc_lastRSS.php on line 92


The problem only occurred with the HTML version of the message, the 
text only version was unaffected. The problem appears to have 
affected the HTML versions of all the tsunami warnings, including 
those a month old. The RSS feed version of the service was unaffected.

By 2:46 pm AEST, the PTWC web site was providing a blank web page, 
rather than error message. The header and sidebar of the page was 
appearing, but the tsunami bulletin details, which are the essential 
information, were missing. An inspection of the source code showed 
commented out code for "2008 Tsunami Awareness Month" and "Exercise 
Pacific Wave 08". Both these events are over and the redundant code 
should be deleted. There were also two Javascript files included 
(total 53 Kbytes). Inclusion of this unnecessary code would slow down 
the display of the web page, adding to the site's problems.

NOAA need to modify the design of their system to better cope with 
the likely load. This can't be done by simply installing more web 
server capacity. The design of the Internet service needs to take the 
requirements for sudden high demand into account.

The West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center provided a map of the 
location of the earthquake. However, it then referred the reader to 
the Pacific centre for more details.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre issued a "National No 
Threat Bulletin" 2026Z Sat 03 Jan 2009.

ICT professionals may feel it is not their place to tell emergency 
experts and government officials how to do their business, but in 
this case it is. Failure to build an effective warning system 
unethical, and in addition may be a crime.

More on my blog at: 

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University  

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