The first mile of warning systems: who’s sharing what with whom?

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by JC Gaillard and Ilan Kelman

Inclusive warning systems

Warning systems for hazards used to be assumed to be top-down: supply technology, data and messages, and then connect to the people affected as the ‘last mile’ of the warning system. Yet lessons from past decades+ alongside recent work+ explain why bringing in affected people last creates problems. Instead, warning systems need to be inclusive from the beginning.

Inclusion is a tricky concept. It is easier to articulate in policy guidelines than to translate into and apply in practice. Inclusion entails sharing power to benefit people who usually lack the opportunities to make decisions affecting their everyday lives. This includes having the appropriate warning information, preparedness and understanding to make informed choices long before a hazard manifests, and when faced with impending and potentially harmful events or processes. Inclusion is therefore a political process, and as such can be resisted by the scientists, governments and agencies that have long been the key providers of warning information and systems.

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