Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems: A Checklist

Manual and Guideline
Originally published
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Outcome of the first Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference 22 to 23 May 2017 – Cancún, Mexico

Prepared by the partners of the International Network for Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems


Early warning is a major element of disaster risk reduction. It can prevent loss of life and reduce the economic and material impacts of hazardous events including disasters. To be effective, early warning systems need to actively involve the people and communities at risk from a range of hazards, facilitate public education and awareness of risks, disseminate messages and warnings efficiently and ensure that there is a constant state of preparedness and that early action is enabled.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 – the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters – recognizes the benefits of multi-hazard early warning systems and enshrines them in one of its seven global targets (target (g)): “Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030”.

The Sendai Framework urges a paradigm shift in the way risk information is developed, assessed and utilized in multi-hazard early warning systems, disaster risk reduction strategies and government policies. It states “in order to reduce disaster risk, there is a need to address existing challenges and prepare for future ones by focusing on monitoring, assessing and understanding disaster risk and sharing such information and on how it is created; strengthening disaster risk governance and coordination across relevant institutions and sectors and the full and meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders at appropriate levels”. The Framework aims to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries” (Figure 1).

Early warning will also contribute to sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses early warning and gives it an important role across the Sustainable Development Goals, such as in food security, healthy lives, resilient cities, environmental management and climate change adaptation. The Paris Agreement stipulates early warning systems as one of the major focus areas in order to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience, reduce vulnerability and minimize loss and damages associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

This checklist is a key outcome of the first Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference, which was organized by the International Network for Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems (IN-MHEWS) 2 from 22 to 23 May 2017 in Cancún, Mexico. It updates the original document, Developing Early Warning Systems: A Checklist, which was produced as an outcome of the Third International Conference on Early Warning: From Concept to Action, held from 27 to 29 March 2006 in Bonn, Germany. 3 Through the lens of the Sendai Framework, it incorporates the acknowledged benefits of multi-hazard early warnings systems, disaster risk information and enhanced risk assessments.

Following the first Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference, a consultation process among the IN-MHEWS partners further refined the checklist, resulting in the present document. It is anticipated that this checklist will be updated as technologies develop, advances in multi-hazard early warning systems are made and feedback from the users is received.

The checklist, which is structured around the four key elements of early warning systems, aims to be a simple list of the main components and actions to which national governments, community organizations and partners within and across all sectors can refer when developing or evaluating early warning systems. It is not intended to be a comprehensive design manual, but instead a practical, non-technical reference tool to ensure that the major elements of an effective early warning system are in place.