Department of Sustainable Development


General elements of Early Warning Systems (EWS)

An Early Warning System, EWS, disseminates timely and relevant information through essential institutions and individuals, which allows persons exposed to a threat to take action in order to avoid or minimize the risk and to get ready for an effective response.  

In order for an EWS to be effective, it should include, at least, the following elements:

  1. Identifying and mapping threats;
  2. Monitoring and  forecasting imminent events;
  3. Dissemination of clear warnings for government officials and the population;
  4. Adopting timely and appropriate measures in response to the warnings.

Different actors play roles in effective Early Warning Systems:

  1. Technical and scientific institutions;
  2. Civil protection authorities and agencies;
  3. Communities

Within the context of management and control of emergencies, the role of early warnings can be more easily understood by refocusing the discussion in terms of the physical problem or the dangerous event, which is real.

Everyone, from experts and specialists to the individuals who live in the areas where the event takes place, can talk about it in tangible terms by relating it to two functional or operational stages:

  1. Preparation phase: Preparation for the danger if this occurs;
  2. Action phase: Confront the dangerous event when it occurs.

When the dangerous event occurs, it triggers the transition from one phase to the other. When it happens, the community affected confronts the event and, once it has dealt with the danger, it prepares itself in the event that it happens again. An early warning system would help the affected community make the most of the time available before the event takes place in order to adopt timely and appropriate measures and minimize the possible effects.