Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
Making development sustainable: The future of disaster risk management

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Part II - Chapter 8
8.1 From early warning to early
warning systems
The development and implementation of early warning systems is one of the areas where the most progress has been made within the HFA. Improvements in risk monitoring and forecasting, satellite data quality and increasing computer power and connectivity have resulted in a transformation of early warning across the globe.
Despite much progress, gaps remain: integration of comprehensive risk information into hazard warning information is still weak, and it is still rare for alerts to provide information on the level of risk and possible actions beyond evacuation alerts.
The first International Conference on Early Warning Systems for Natural Disaster Reduction was held in Potsdam, Germany in 1998 and set out the conceptual and programmatic foundations for the development of early warning systems.
Box 8.1 Key activities related to early warning systems in HFA Priority for Action 2
A study produced for that conference (Maskrey, 1997

Maskrey, Andrew. 1997,Report on National and Local Capabilities for Early Warning, International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.. .
) introduced the notion that an early warning system should be far more than a mechanism to issue warnings of impending hazard events. For an early warning to become a system, four integrated sub-systems are required: a warning sub-system in which hazards are monitored and forecasts and warnings issued; a risk information sub-system in which risk scenarios can be generated for the areas and population likely to be affected; a preparedness sub-system that indicates the actions that should be taken to reduce loss and damage, and a communication sub-system which allows the timely communication of information on pending hazard events, risks and appropriate preparedness strategies to those at risk.
From that perspective, the effectiveness of an early warning system should be judged less on whether warnings are issued per se but rather on the basis of whether the warnings facilitate appropriate and timely decision-making by those most at risk (Maskrey, 1997

Maskrey, Andrew. 1997,Report on National and Local Capabilities for Early Warning, International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.. .
d) Develop early warning systems that are people centered, in particular systems whose warnings are timely and understandable to those at risk, which take into account the demographic, gender, cultural and livelihood characteristics of the target audiences, including guidance on how to act upon warnings, and that support effective operations by disaster managers and other decision makers.

(e) Establish, periodically review, and maintain information systems as part of early warning systems with a view to ensuring that rapid and coordinated action is taken in cases of alert/emergency.

(f) Establish institutional capacities to ensure that early warning systems are well integrated into governmental policy and decision-making processes and emergency management systems at both the national and the local levels, and are subject to regular system testing and performance assessments.

(g) Implement the outcome of the Second International Conference on Early Warning held in Bonn, Germany, in 2003, including through the strengthening of coordination and cooperation among all relevant sectors and actors in the early warning chain in order to achieve fully effective early warning systems.

(h) Implement the outcome of the Mauritius Strategy for the further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the sustainable development of small island developing States, including by establishing and strengthening effective early warning systems as well as other mitigation and response measures.
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