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Practical action and early warning systems

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Manual and Guideline
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Summary

Early warning provides an opportunity for people to take action to save lives and livelihoods, reducing the impacts of rapid onset disasters. For an early warning system to be truly effective, we must take a holistic and people-centred approach to ensure that timely, accurate, reliable, and understandable information reaches everyone in the right way for them to take action. This publication outlines the key elements of an effective early warning system; explains why these elements are so important and what considerations need to be taken for each; and explores how Practical Action is incorporating these elements into our early warning systems work.

Recommendations

  1. Take a holistic, people-centred approach: For an early warning system (EWS) to be effective we must address all elements to ensure that timely, accurate, reliable, and understandable information reaches everyone in the right way for them to take action.

  2. Understand risk: We need to understand the risks affecting communities, including hazards, exposure, vulnerabilities, and coping capacities. We need to collaborate with those at risk and those responsible for reducing risks to develop this knowledge, and help with preparedness and risk reduction planning and management.

  3. Undertake evidence-based monitoring and warning: We need to monitor environmental conditions and issue warnings in a scientifically robust, low-cost, contextually appropriate, scalable, and sustainable way.

  4. Communicate effectively: In order for warnings to reach everyone at risk, they must be accessible, tailored, clear, understandable, useful, and actionable.

  5. Develop response capacities: Clear preparedness plans, training, education, and resources are needed in advance of a disaster. In this way, stakeholders will be confident in their roles and responsibilities, information shared, and action taken efficiently and effectively in response to early warning before a disaster occurs.

  6. Address cross-cutting issues: While undertaking all of these recommendations, we need to ensure that the development and implementation of the EWS involves local communities and marginalized people; considers gender perspectives and cultural diversity; develops effective governance and institutional arrangements; and takes a multi-hazard approach.