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The impact of natural disaster has long been a concern for the countries, especially the developing ones. Very few societies have adapted their framework of development to the natural environment surrounding them and the losses and costs associated with disasters of natural origin. In some cases there is sufficient time available to warn the population for an oncoming disaster, and therefore an efficient and appropriate warning system along with training to respond to the warnings may be of much help in reducing risk and minimizing loss and damage.

The purpose of early warning systems is to detect, forecast, and when necessary, issue alerts related to impending hazard events. In order to fulfill a risk reduction function, however, early warning needs to be supported by information about the actual and potential risks that a hazard poses, as well as the measures people can take to prepare for and mitigate its adverse impacts. Early warning information needs to be communicated in people friendly manner in such a way that facilitates decision-making and timely action of response organisations and vulnerable groups (Maskrey 1997). Early warning information comes from different meteorological offices(for weatherweather related disasters- flood, cyclone etc.); Ministries of Health (for example, disease outbreaks) and Agriculture (for example, crop forecasts); local and indigenous sources; media sources and increasingly from Internet early warning services.

There are three stages to early warning systems: Firstly, there is monitoring of precursors, followed by forecasting a probable event and finally, the notification of a warning or an alert should an event of catastrophic proportions take place.

An improved warning systems would include a fourth phase, i.e. the emergency response activity once the warning has been issued. The purpose of this step is to ensure that there needs to be the warning where by the initial responsibility lies on the emergency response unit. To develop effective early warning systems it is increasingly important to develop a strong technical foundations and good knowledge of risks. These warning systems must be strongly people centered with clear messages and that help reaches those who are at risk. They must be practiced by individuals who have sufficient knowledge in this field; therefore, public awareness and education are both critical.

An integral part of early warnings is risk knowledge as risks arise from both hazards and vulnerabilities that are present. Risk assessment and mapping will facilitate in setting up priorities in early warning system needs and to guide preparedness towards disasters. Risk assessments could be based on human, social and economic vulnerabilities. Hence, it is essential to develop the early warning system for a disaster-free environment.

Even though Governments are ultimately responsible for issuing timely public warnings, NGOs, CBOs and Societies can play a supporting role. They can help raise local awareness of the hazards to which a community is exposed and assist local organisations and vulnerable populations with interpreting early warning information and taking appropriate and timely action to minimize loss and damage. The NGOs and CBOs efforts to build these capacities should complement local indigenous capacities and knowledge related to disaster early warning and alert.

Source : UNISDR
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