Early Warning is often mistakenly thought of as an alert sent in response to the occurrence of a certain situation. One thinks, for example, of the sensor that registers the guard level of the river and sends a notification if this is exceeded. This definition is rather imprecise and sometimes misused.
Such a situation, in fact, does not correctly define the system.
An Early Warning system should be considered as a set of tools that enable a warning to be sent before a given event occurs and sufficiently in advance for it to be prepared for its handling.
There are several examples to clarify how Early Warning works. In the case of tsunamis, due to the great distance of the wave from the epicentre, thanks to Early Warning it is possible to inform the population of the arrival of the wave sufficiently in advance to ensure the evacuation of the affected area.
The same happens, under certain conditions, in the case of seismic phenomena. In Latin America, in fact, Early Warning is widely used precisely for the purpose of informing the population in good time of any incoming earthquake tremors.
The 3 pillars of Early Warning
Implementing Early Warning is quite complex. To do this best, three fundamental components are required, which must necessarily work simultaneously:
Sensors for territory monitoring, the indispensable input for recording phenomena.
Predictive algorithms, capable of interpreting the consequences of individual events and the level of risk.
Communication infrastructure, an information sharing tool to provide synthetic pictures of ongoing situations and send alerts to the population as quickly as possible.
For example, applying Early Warning in the management of a possible river overflow means installing a network of sensors to measure weather conditions and water levels; using algorithms to calculate the flood wave; and adopting a communication infrastructure to send warning signals whenever critical effects are detected.
An extended concept of Early Warning
The concept of Early Warning can be expanded and understood as the tool that can provide early notification of the increased risk of adverse events, before they actually occur. This increases the ability to prepare and implement correct procedures, helping citizens and professionals to organise themselves effectively.
In this context, weather reports issued by the Regional Functional Centre concerning the hydro-meteorological alert can be considered a partial application of the Early Warning methodology. In fact, the notification of a weather alert sent the day before allows the bodies concerned to implement the most appropriate behaviour to manage the situation. Early Warning also helps to raise awareness and plan the preventive measures to be implemented in response to the anomaly recorded.
The key to facing Maxi Emergencies
The importance of the Early Warning methodology in the management of major emergencies is quite evident. Knowing in advance that an adverse event is about to occur makes it possible to promptly organise the best actions to deal with it. However, Early Warning alone is not enough; it is essential to invest time and resources in planning and defining emergency procedures.
Let’s consider the case of a tsunami-prone area. The correct application of the Early Warning methodology, supported by an advanced preparedness phase, consists of 2 main steps:
Sending the warning 30 minutes before the arrival of a tsunami wave.
Initiation of emergency procedures and organisation of evacuation within the affected area, already instructed in peacetime to adopt the correct behaviour.
Early Warning: at the heart of the Safety 1st solution
Safety 1st is the solution designed by Beta 80 Group for the Civil Protection Operations Room. The system allows integration with a network of sensors installed throughout the territory, interpretation of the data received and processing of alerts to be sent to the operators at the Centre and to citizens, using dedicated tools. In order to promptly alert resources and the population, it is important to notify the event before it has significant effects.
For this reason, Safety 1st is enabled to adopt Early Warning algorithms which, on the basis of input data, make it possible to determine the approach of an emergency situation and communicate it in a timely manner. Such Early Warning alerts can be handled on the basis of the procedures already implemented in the system, using the notification systems available for disseminating alerts.