Terminology

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Early warning system

Source(s):  United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) [ 2 February 2017 ]

Definition:

An integrated system of hazard monitoring, forecasting and prediction, disaster risk assessment, communication and preparedness activities systems and processes that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazardous events.

Annotations: Effective “end-to-end” and “people-centred” early warning systems may include four interrelated key elements: (1) disaster risk knowledge based on the systematic collection of data and disaster risk assessments; (2) detection, monitoring, analysis and forecasting of the hazards and possible consequences; (3) dissemination and communication, by an official source, of authoritative, timely, accurate and actionable warnings and associated information on likelihood and impact; and (4) preparedness at all levels to respond to the warnings received. These four interrelated components need to be coordinated within and across sectors and multiple levels for the system to work effectively and to include a feedback mechanism for continuous improvement. Failure in one component or a lack of coordination across them could lead to the failure of the whole system.

Multi-hazard early warning systems address several hazards and/or impacts of similar or different type in contexts where hazardous events may occur alone, simultaneously, cascadingly or cumulatively over time, and taking into account the potential interrelated effects. A multi-hazard early warning system with the ability to warn of one or more hazards increases the efficiency and consistency of warnings through coordinated and compatible mechanisms and capacities, involving multiple disciplines for updated and accurate hazards identification and monitoring for multiple hazards.


  • About the Terminology The UNISDR Terminology aims to promote a common understanding and usage of disaster risk reduction concepts and to assist the disaster risk reduction efforts of authorities, practitioners and the public.

Please note: The 2009 Terminology was updated following the request of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (paragraph 50), which recommended the establishment of an open-ended intergovernmental expert working group.