Bill proposes speedier disaster warning system

A bill establishing new, faster warning systems for earthquakes, cyclones and other natural disasters will be tabled before Parliament on Tuesday. 

Members of the Samoa Meteorological Service appeared before Members of Parliament on Monday during their Parliament Pre-Sitting, to speak about the bill and the merits of establishing a new multi-hazard early warning system.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi was among the M.P.s n attendance for the briefing. 

The legislation - the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Bill 2020 - will regulate the way in which meteorological and geoscientific services in Samoa are managed. 

Another major component of the bill is the establishment of a new multi-hazard early warning system to inform the country more quickly about natural disasters. 

Fuimaono Lameko Talia, the Acting Chief Executive Officer (A.C.E.O.) for the Met Service, told the Samoa Observer that much of the bill’s contents are already in place. But its crucial reform will be to increase the range of disasters monitored and the speed at which warnings are issued if disaster strikes. 

“It’s not entirely new and we’ve already got components installed. We have our monitoring system in place, we have our hazard detection system in place and we are already doing the analysis of earthquakes and storms,” Fuimaono told the Samoa Observer on the sidelines of Monday’s pre-sitting briefing. 

“But what we are trying to improve on, we would like to improve on the speed of the messages getting out to the public – and incorporate all other hazards as well – landslides, volcanic [eruptions], flooding, storm surges and cyclones all-in-one. That is what we mean by the multi-hazard early warning system.”

The Meteorology bill is composed of six parts

These include the establishment of the multi-hazard early warning system which will also define the roles of people working within the meteorology system and create a commitment to gathering available data about disaster risk. 

The new role defintions, data sharing agreements and analyses would ensure that early warnings are issued as quickly as they are needed to members of the public, mariners and aviators.

The system will be integrated into existing disaster management arrangements previously created under the Disaster and Emergency Management Act 2007 and support that law when required. 

The Meteorology Division must ensure that the multi-hazard early warning system is updated, fully operational and technically functional to ensure data about potential risks to life or property associated with natural disasters. 

The system and its components may be amended, updated and altered with the approval of the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.).

The second part of the bill renames the Meteorology Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) to the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Division (M.G.O.S.D.).

It also details the administrative organisation of the new division, its appointments and duties and responsibilities.

The operating principles of the Division are: the precautionary principle, scientific integrity, protection of intellectual property rights and values, principles and a code of conduct. 

The fourth part of the bill relates to issuing warnings. It authorises the M.G.O.S.D. to issue meteorological, geo-science or ozone warning bulletins directly to the public based on observations or forecasts. 

Warnings are to be issued in English and Samoan and must convey the likely or possible impact of the disaster’s potential risks, assets and economy. Warnings must also be regularly updated to assure recipients that the risk is continuously monitored and cancelled when it subsides.

The C.E.O. is tasked with making sure all warnings issued are disseminated widely using available and appropriate means of communication for informing the public. 

The bill’s fifth part requires the new Division to comply with all of Samoa’s regional and international obligations and that the country continues to be represented at relevant regional and international meetings. 

Finally, the bill makes interfering with the Division’s work, such as by impeding the work of one of its officers, defacing, tampering, moving or destroying equipment or machinery will now be a crime with a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison.

Interfering with the division’s activities can also include tampering through the use of electronic sound, radio or satellite equipment, drones or other flying objects or projectiles.

People who knowingly or recklessly issue a false or unauthorized warning about the weather, an earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption or landslide would also face two years in prison.

It will also be unlawful to disseminate an unauthorised warning.

A person who breaches any other provision of the Act would face three years in prison.



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