Early Warnings

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Early Warning Systems

Early Warning is “the provision of timely and effective information, through identified institutions, that allows individuals exposed to hazard to take action to avoid or reduce their risk and prepare for effective response”. According to the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) (UN2006), it integrates four main elements:

A fundamental precondition for national disaster risk reduction is availability of well-functioning early warning systems that deliver accurate, reliable and understandable warnings, in a timely manner, to authorities, operational disaster managers and populations at risk, to enable early actions to reduce the impacts of potential disasters. Such systems must rely on commitment, collaboration, coordination, and information sharing among different stakeholders, at different levels (international, regional, national, local). Hazard specific early warning systems have been developed, which in some cases have similarities and common crosscutting elements. There may be the potential that enhanced integration among different components of early warning systems could lead to strengthened capacities and economies of these systems at national to international levels, and enhanced capacities for disaster risk reduction.
Early warning systems help to reduce economic losses and mitigate the number of injuries or deaths from a disaster, by providing information that allows individuals and communities to protect their lives and property. Early warning information empowers people to take action prior to a disaster. If well integrated with risk assessment studies and communication and action plans, early warning systems can lead to substantive benefits. Effective early warning systems embrace the following aspects: risk analysis; monitoring and predicting location and intensity of the disaster; and communicating alerts. Cohesive and comprehensive disaster management, meteorological, climatic and hydrological information data and information and the provision of standardized, value-added data products for assessing, predicting, and forecasting environmental change is key to climate change adaptation and planning. Thus, one way to support effective climate change adaptation planning in Sierra Leone is to improve climate monitoring and early warning systems through the enhancement of the technical and technology capacities of the relevant mandated institutions – Sierra Leone Meteorological Department (SLMD) in the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA), the Office of National Security – Disaster Management Department (ONS-DMD), the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), the Environment Protection Agency-Sierra Leone (EPA-SL). However, the stumbling blocks in the path include the present limited or non-existence of systematic processes for packaging, translating and disseminating climate information and warnings, lack of technically skilled human resources and poor community level usage of climate information and responses to received warnings. This is as a result of a number of policies, institutional, financial, technological and informational barriers that exist in the country.