Early Warnings

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Strengthened the CIDMEWS will result in adequate:

lead-times for local communities at risk – of floods and severe storms (hail, thunder, lightning, intense rains and violent winds) – to prepare and undertake risk reduction measures, including moving assets to safer locations and implementing flood resilience measures;
interpretation, packaging and transfer of climate information for relevant user-agencies to minimize risk to life and livelihoods including evacuating vulnerable groups, assisting local communities implement risk reduction, and implementing flood control and re-routing structures;
agro- and hydro-meteorological information for informing integrated farm management and water resources management;
integration of climate information into planning and policy making processes; and;
packaging of weather and climate data and information for a range of other service providers including applications related to building and management of infrastructure, land and air transport, and the private sector.
In the process of providing services in various sectors of the economy, SLMD requires very fast computational power, fast telecommunication systems for rapid exchange of information, and highly trained personnel. 
Most of the products of SLMD are highly time sensitive and thus need to be disseminated to the users in the fastest modes possible. Faster communication of weather information has proved to be a major challenge to the SLMD. The channels used in the dissemination of the meteorological products in SLMD include press releases, interaction with media personnel, radio and TV channels, email services, government line ministries, website, and social media. 

Different regions require different weather information. SLMD will produce various forecasts and early warning products. They include historical and past climate records, real-time and near-real-time weather information, now casting for airport services, short-range weather forecasts, medium-range weather, long-range weather forecasts, and climate predictions. SLMD will also provide climate change information and severe weather advisories. This information helps in identifying suitable activities for specific areas and period to reduce weather related risks.
The critical concern is that there is currently inadequate observational network and poor spatial coverage. Some remote areas hardly have weather measuring/recording stations/equipment. Incidentally, these are the same areas, where weather information is of utmost importance for planning agro pastoral activities due to the high variability of the weather parameters in the region.
To ameliorate this, rehabilitation of the existing observational networks and installing new stations to ensure a dense network is encouraged. For the remote areas, automated stations are a good choice. SLMD is in the process of expanding the network despite being at a slower pace. It also collaborates with other stakeholders with observational platforms such as remote sensing and other institutions. Again, SLMD utilises the services of volunteer weather observers across the country.

New techniques are emerging as technology evolves. It is very difficult to provide location specific forecasts. SLMD lacks modern facilities for data analysis and integration of products necessary to overlay various products for realization of more accurate forecasts. There is a need to improve and refine the weather models used and enhance the capacity in numerical weather prediction and dynamical modelling as well as the remote-sensing techniques. Ultimately, SLMD should acquire modern facilities for data analysis and information presentation.
To overcome this problem, meteorologists should consider linkages with end users of forecast information to develop user-oriented products, communicate the information in the user’s local languages (particularly the rural communities), and develop techniques for raising the awareness of the user communities on the benefits of using weather information in decision-making. There is need for improvement of the modes of communication, for example, short messaging service (SMS) and common alerting protocol (CAP). Through collaborating with intermediaries, SLMD will be able to disseminate weather information services to national and sub-national levels using modern technology available, that is, SMS at reasonable speed and cost.

We understand that: 

  • Development and sustainability of the CIDMEWS requires political commitment and dedicated investments;
  • Early warning systems must be an integral part of all levels of the government’s (national and local) disaster risk management plans and budgets; 
  • Legislation must explicitly define roles and responsibilities of various authorities and agencies;
  • Implementation of the CIDMEWS warning systems requires a clear concept of operations and standard operating procedures, enabling effective coordination among agencies across the components of early warning systems, at national and local levels (horizontally and vertically), and; 
  • Systematic feedback and evaluation at all levels are needed with established mechanisms to communication of Early Warning Information

An effective early warning system needs an effective communication system. Early warning communication systems have two main components:
  • Communication infrastructure hardware that must be reliable and robust, especially during the disaster; and 
  • Appropriate and effective interactions among the main actors of the early warning process, such as the scientific community, stakeholders, decision makers, the public, and the media.

Redundancy of communication systems is essential for disaster management, while emergency power supplies and back-up systems are critical in order to avoid the collapse of communication systems after disasters occur. In addition, to ensure the communication systems operate reliably and effectively during and after a disaster occurs, and to avoid network congestion, frequencies and channels must be reserved and dedicated to disaster relief operations.

Many communication tools are currently available for warning dissemination, such as Short Message Service (SMS) (cellular phone text messaging), email, radio, and TV and web service. Information and communication technology (ICT) is a key element in early warning, which plays an important role in disaster communication and disseminating information to organizations in charge of responding to warnings and to the public during and after a disaster.
Monitoring, prediction and timely early warning of the extreme events are therefore the best strategies for mitigating their negative impacts on humanity and property. Thus, calls for the existence of an effective and efficient early weather warning system. By definition, early warning provides timely weather information that allows individuals, organisations, or communities exposed to likely hazards take action that avoids or reduces their exposure to risks. An early warning system therefore involves data collection, information development, modes of dissemination, and action triggering mechanisms.

Centralization and decentralization of EWS

When analyzing who executes the two initial phases of the early warning systems, namely, monitoring and forecasting, one can see two trends, centralized systems where a national-type agency carries out these functions, and decentralized systems where these tasks are carried out by other agencies, municipal workers and volunteers at the more local level. For example, in Central America, the national meteorological agencies operate early warning systems for hurricanes and for floods, including the emission of the warning to the media. Such systems are set up and operated by these institutions. In contrast, national disaster reduction agencies, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations have been implementing decentralised systems in small basins, where communities carry out all phases, including the response. In such systems, city halls are coordinating most of the activities, and are connected to the national emergency agency via a radio network that is used to communicate all information within the system. While decentralised systems operate using much simpler equipment and are thus less precise, such systems rely on a network of people-operated radios to transmit information regarding precursors to events or warnings. The tradeoff gained from losing precision to monitor and forecast events is gained by being able to transmit other very useful information, generally related to social issues, such as medical needs, information regarding relatives or processes, or the solution of such problems as the fixing of power lines when they fail, or acquiring heavy machinery to reopen a road which might be blocked by a landslide. So far, community- operated systems have been mostly applied in the case of floods, especially in small flood basins.