Sunday, April 26, 2009
A page out of ISDR
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Main participants in early warning systems
Many groups are important to disaster early warning systems – public officials, community and business leaders, NGOs, scientists, academics, teachers, the media, community leaders, and of course householders. The best early warning systems find ways to link all these groups and to facilitate their cooperation.
Ultimately, early warning systems succeed or fail depending on community involvement. Too often the populations at risk are not engaged or consulted. Specialist technical services cannot do the job alone. Individual action is not enough. Whether it is for the assessment of the long term risks faced, the preparedness measures to be taken, the communication and interpretation of warnings, or the commitment to action on warnings, the engagement of communities and their natural leaders is essential, in order to build effective capacity in all links of the early warning chain.
National meteorological and hydrological services
Since about 80% of all disasters involve the weather, in most countries the national meteorological and hydrological service is the key national agency for issuing early warnings. Sometimes this agency also has responsibility for volcanic and earthquake hazards. In some countries, floods and hydrological forecasting are handled by a separate agency, for example a river basin management authority. When a serious hazard is imminent, to avoid confusion it is important that there is a single authoritative voice for the early warnings. Information on national meteorological and hydrological services can be found at the World Meteorological Organization site http://www.wmo.int.
Authorities concerned with impacts
In many countries, there are other authorities such as departments of civil protection, or of emergency management, which manage crises when they occur in order to reduce the impacts. These or other authorities may also take responsibility for assessing the social and economic impacts of potential hazard events and for issuing warnings of likely future impacts. Sometimes they may also undertake preventative mitigation and preparedness activities and outreach, including promotion of early warning and preparedness.
However, it is uncommon for authorities to systematically monitor and provide early warnings of the underlying social and environment conditions that are the cause of the growing vulnerability of many communities to natural hazards. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recently published a report Reducing disaster risk: a Challenge for Development, which surveys vulnerability factors for most countries.
United Nations authorities
Many United Nations agencies and secretariats are active in early warning, either to support public use, or for their own operational use. Principal concerns include weather data and warnings (WMO), food-related monitoring and early warning (FAO, WFP), water related hazards and tsunami (UNESCO, WMO), drought (WMO, UNCCD), environmental factors (UNEP), humanitarian concerns (OCHA), and health impacts (WHO). Several UN agencies played a strong role in the Second International Conference on Early Warning and are involved in the development of the Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning.
Comment by Praful Rao
STH is working on a developing a small early warning network amongst NGOs in this part of world which could work alongside existing Govt machinery and alert communities in advance about cyclones/ depressions and periods of heavy precipitation.