Early Warning Saves Millions of Lives

Early warning saves lives © UNISDR CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bangladesh, Cuba, France

Over the last few decades, meteorological, hydrological and climate forecasts have become increasingly accurate and accessible as a result of remarkable international co-operation, facilitated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the National Meterological and Hydrological Services (HMHS) of its 191 members.

Despite a history of recurring disasters, some lower income countries such as Bangladesh and Cuba have made dramatic strides in reducing mortality risks through effective EWS for tropical cyclones and storm surge and flooding. In Bangladesh, following the tropical cyclone and storm surges in 1970 and 1991, which led to some 300,000 and 140,000 casualties respectively, the government together with the Red Crescent Societies of Bangladesh implemented a Cyclone Preparedness Programme. This resulted in a much-reduced death toll, with less than 3500 casualties from cyclone Sidr in November 2007.

In France, following the devastating December 1999 winter storm Lothar in which 100 people died, the public Vigilance warning system was developed as part of revised emergency planning and response mechanisms. A similar storm in January 2009 resulted in only eight deaths. Later, following the intense heat wave in 2003 which led to over 15 000 deaths in France, Vigilance was upgraded to include heat/health warnings. As a result, the 2006 heat wave caused only 31 per cent of the number of deaths that would have occurred without the warning and response mechanisms. River flood risk warnings were included following a major flood in 2007.