The upstream-downstream interface of Sri Lanka’s tsunami early warning system

Richard Haigh, Maheshika Sakalasuriya, Dilanthi Amaratunga, Senaka Basnayake, Siri Hettige, Sarath Premalal, Ananda Jayasinghe Arachchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to deliver a detailed analysis of the functioning of upstream–downstream interface process of the tsunami early warning and mitigation system in Sri Lanka. It also gives an understanding of the social, administrative, political and cultural complexities attached to the operation of interface mechanism, and introduces an analytical framework highlighting the significant dynamics of the interface of tsunami early warning system in Sri Lanka. Design/methodology/approach: Through the initial literature review, a conceptual framework was developed, highlighting the criteria against which the interface process can be assessed. This framework was used as the basis for developing data collection tools, namely, documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews and observations that focused on the key stakeholder institutions in Sri Lanka. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data according to the conceptual framework, and an improved and detailed framework was developed deriving from the findings. Findings: The manner in which the interface mechanism operates in Sri Lanka’s tsunami early warning system is discussed, providing a detailed understanding of the decision-making structures; key actors; standardisation; technical and human capacities; socio-spatial dynamics; coordination among actors; communication and information dissemination; and the evaluation processes. Several gaps and shortcomings were identified with relation to some of these aspects, and the significance of addressing these gaps is highlighted in the paper. Practical implications: A number of recommendations are provided to address the existing shortcomings and to improve the overall performance of tsunami warning system in Sri Lanka. Originality/value: Based on the findings, a framework was developed into a more detailed analytical framework that depicts the interface operationalisation in Sri Lanka, and can also be potentially applied to similar cases across the world. The new analytical framework was validated through a focus group discussion held in Sri Lanka with the participation of experts and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-240
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2020


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