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Tech Industry

Sun aims to bolster disaster warning systems

Server company teams with Pacific Disaster Center to provide research, analysis and early emergency alerts.

Sun Microsystems announced a project on Wednesday to build out disaster warning systems in countries around the world.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based server company said it has teamed with the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), a Hawaii-based outfit that provides applied information research, analysis and early warning alerts for emergency managers in the Asia-Pacific and surrounding regions.

Sun will supply the technology, including engineering services. The two organizations plan to develop centers like PDC in other countries. However, they did not detail which nations would benefit first or reveal financial information about the project.

"This collaboration is truly a resource to help nations build capacities that protect the lives and property of their citizens," Ray Shirkhodai, PDC's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The alliance comes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean a year ago, both cataclysmic disasters that have prompted heightened awareness and a need for better warning systems. For example, rescuers were hamstrung during Katrina when the storm knocked out local communications networks and emergency call enters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Society have said they are working on early detection and warning systems, but such work is greatly helped by influences from the technology industry and other disciplines. Earlier this year, 168 nations also agreed to create and deploy an early warning system for natural hazards by 2007 in a project led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Before this project, Sun has supplied PDC with the underlying architecture of its warning system, which runs on Sun's Solaris operating system and Sparc-based servers. The technology is used to assess risks of disasters in populated areas and deliver data to decision-makers.

Sun has already worked with PDC to help Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center develop its disaster early warning capabilities, a project funded by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

With this next step, Sun will be a more comprehensive technology partner, including providing engineering support through its humanitarian division, according to the company.