Abstract: This paper describes the experiences of a West-European project group in Sri Lanka in March 2005, during a tsunami threat. They had previous disaster related knowledge and used both local guidance, global media and contacts back home, but could not get adequate information about how much time they had, how likely a tsunami was, or which countries had ordered evacuations. Their decision to evacuate was based on their own reasoning and influenced most by one trusted local resident. Their mobile phone communication with their relations in Europe created a de facto ad hoc mobile emergency announcement (MEA) system. Their decision to return relied heavily on the ad hoc MEA text messages, as local authorities had not yet issued an all-clear. The findings underline the importance of multiple early warning languages and delivery channels and suggest that when relevant, 'event onset time' should be explicit in early warning.