Earthquake Early-Warning in Haiti
Haiti, a country prone to earthquakes, faces a significant threat to its infrastructure and public safety due to its location on the boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. In recent years, several seismic events have caused damage and loss of life in the region. To mitigate the effects of future earthquakes, the Inter-American Development Bank funded a project with Grillo to deploy a network of seismic sensors and a cloud-based detection system for earthquake early-warning in Haiti. This case study describes the implementation of this project, focused on the south of Haiti, utilizing the telecom company Digicel’s cell towers for locating sensors.
The project is a collaboration between the Haitian government, Grillo, Inter-American Development Bank, AWS and Digicel, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the region. The primary objective was to develop a system that could provide early warning of seismic events, allowing authorities and the public to take appropriate action to minimize the effects of earthquakes prior to the arrival of destructive shaking. The project involved the following steps:
- Sensor deployment: The first step involved deploying a network of seismic sensors across the southern region of Haiti. The sensors were installed on Digicel’s cell towers, which provided a reliable power supply, secure locations and connnectivity.
- Data transmission: The seismic data collected by the sensors were transmitted in real-time to AWS. This reliable, low-latency and secure platform is capable of handling and processing large volumes of data.
- Data analysis: The seismic data is analyzed in real-time using sophisticated algorithms designed to detect earthquake events. The algorithms are capable of differentiating between natural and human-caused events and providing a rapid estimate of the magnitude and location of the earthquake.
- Alert dissemination: Once an earthquake event is detected, the system automatically generates alerts to be sent to relevant authorities and the public via cell broadcast, and other channels. The alerts contain information about the earthquake’s location, magnitude, and potential impact, allowing people to take appropriate action.
The implementation of this project faced several challenges, including:
- Security: Haiti is in a period of civil unrest and deploying sensors is a challenge.
- Logistics: The deployment of the seismic sensors required access to Digicel’s cell towers, which involved negotiating access agreements with the company. Additionally, the installation of the sensors required trained personnel, specialized equipment, and transport facilities, all of which presented logistical challenges.
- Communication: The project required effective communication between the different stakeholders, including the Haitian government, international organizations, and Digicel. The project team established regular communication channels and held frequent meetings to ensure that everyone was aligned and informed about the project’s progress.
Despite the challenges, the seismic sensor network and cloud-based detection system were successfully deployed in the south of Haiti. The system has already provided early warning of several seismic events, including a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in October 2018, allowing authorities and the public to take appropriate action to minimize the effects of the earthquake.
The system has also proved effective in providing timely and accurate information about seismic events, which has improved the public’s awareness and understanding of earthquake risk. Furthermore, the project has strengthened the collaboration between the Haitian government, international organizations, and Digicel, paving the way for future collaboration and partnerships.
The deployment of a seismic sensor network and cloud-based detection system for earthquake early-warning in Haiti’s south has been a success, demonstrating the potential for technology to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. The project has provided a model for future earthquake early-warning systems in the region and has highlighted the importance of collaboration between different stakeholders to achieve common goals.