Early warning systems (EWS) have received significant international attention over the past few years. Over the last 50 years the recorded numbers of disasters caused by natural hazards, and the associated economic losses have increased, loss of life associated with some hazards has decreased significantly. This has been attributed to the development of early warning systems in conjunction with emergency preparedness and response planning in a number of high-risk countries around the world. For an early warning system to be effective, it needs to be built upon four components including:
- Observation, detection, monitoring, analysis, forecasting and development of hazard warning messages;
- Assessing potential risks and integrating risk information into warning messages;
- Dissemination of timely and reliable and understandable warning messages to authorities and public at-risk;
- Community-based emergency planning, preparedness and training programmes focused on eliciting an effective response to warnings to reduce potential impact on lives and livelihoods.
It is particularly important to recognise that EWS is not created nor operated by a single agency, but requires involvement, acceptance and cooperation by many stakeholders and must be built to leverage institutional capacities, mandates and expertise as well as to ensure operational collaboration and coordination among a variety of stakeholders at national to local levels such as:
- Disaster risk management and civil protection agencies and authorities;
- Technical and sectoral agencies such as the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS), Geological Services, Health Services, etc. responsible for monitoring, detecting and developing and issuing warnings;
- Other entities such as media, military, NGOs,
Development and sustainability of EWS would require political commitment and dedicated investments that are reflected as an integral part of national and local disaster risk management planning and budgeting. Implementation of EWS engages several agencies and actors at national to local levels, whose role and responsibilities should be clearly reflected in the plans and enforceable legislation. Alignment of policies and budgets across national to local should empower local authorities with appropriate resource to engage in community preparedness. Investments in this part of the EWS value chain are critical for “early warnings” to lead to effective “early action”. Systematic feedback and evaluation at all levels are also needed, to ensure improvements of the system over time.
However, results of various surveys including, the Global Early Warning Survey (2006), WMO survey in 2006-2007, and the EWS Assessment Report prepared for 2009 GAR indicate that while some developments are underway at regional, national and local levels, many challenges on legislative, financial, organizational, technical, operational, training and capacity building aspects remain to ensure that EWS are implemented as an integral part of disaster risk reduction strategies, with in a multi-hazard framework. A number of coordinated initiatives are underway for development and strengthening of EWS at various levels and will be discussed at this roundtable.
Objectives of the Round-Table on Early Warning System
1) To discuss latest progress, challenges and gaps in EWS based on regional, national and local examples as part of the broader disaster risk reduction activities
2) Develop recommendations for inclusion in the outcomes of 2nd GPDRR on concrete coordinated initiatives that can be undertaken by the ISDR System international and regional partners to support development and strengthening of early warning systems at regional to local levels.
Dr. Maryam Golnaraghi (WMO)
Mr. Bhupinder Tomar (IFRC)
Ms. Sandra Amlang (UN/ISDR PPEW)