In 1989, the member states of the United Nations declared the period from 1990 to the year 2000 to be the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). Its objective is to “reduce the loss of life, property damage, and social and economic disruption caused by natural disasters, through concerted international action, especially in developing countries”.
The fundamental importance of early-warning for realizing this objective of disaster reduction was recognized in 1991. The IDNDR’s International Scientific and Technical Committee declared the subject a programme target, by which the success of the Decade would be judged by the year 2000. By drawing on global scientific knowledge and practical experience, the IDNDR advisory committee encouraged all countries to ensure the ready access to global, regional, national and local warning systems as part of their national development plans. The IDNDR Secretariat has since coordinated an international multi-disciplinary framework to promote this issue. In doing so, it has been able to draw on the comprehensive views and abilities of the United Nations system, needs and concerns of individual countries, and related global expert knowledge.
The critical nature of early-warning for the protection of vital resources and for addressing national development objectives was highlighted by a technical committee session devoted to the subject at the United Nations’ World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction held in Yokohama, Japan in May 1994. Several of the expert presentations cited the importance of public policy commitment for successful early warning. The primary outcome of the Conference, The Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World: Guidelines for Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation further emphasized the importance of applied scientific knowledge and the public’s awareness of hazard risks as essential components for more effective early warning practices.
The IDNDR Secretariat was requested by the United Nations General Assembly in 1995 to coordinate a programme to review the existing early warning programmes within the United Nations system and to suggest means by which global practices could become better coordinated and made more effective. Initial information was conveyed by the Secretary General’s Report on Early Warning to the Fiftieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly in October 1995. At that time, a further examination of new scientific and experimental concepts for accurate and timely short-term forecasting was requested of the IDNDR for the purpose of making recommendations on the applicability and development of more effective early warning in the context of international cooperation
For the current work, six international expert working groups were convened to study different dimensions of the early warning process. Individual groups reviewed aspects of early warning as they related to geological hazards, hydrometeorological hazards including drought, fire and other environmental hazards and technological hazards. Other groups concentrated on the use and transfer of related modern technologies, and national and local capabilities pertinent to the effective use of early warning.
This present report of the expert group on Early Warning for Fire and Other Environmental Hazards represents global experience and reviews the current state of knowledge and practice on the subject. Recommendations are also made for improvements and areas that require additional international attention. The consensus views include major contributions from scientific and technical experts of different professional disciplines as well as the participation of United Nations departments and agencies concerned. An effort was made to ensure that views of government authorities, non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society were also represented, particularly as they relate to factors which determine the efficacy of early warnings.
This report is one of a series issued by the IDNDR Secretariat in October 1997 to trace efforts in reviewing the current global state of early warning systems. By the end of the Decade, these views will contribute to final recommendations for improved, and better coordinated, practices in fulfilment of the initial IDNDR programme target for the subject. They will first be considered by an International Conference on early warning systems for the reduction of natural disasters to be held in Potsdam, Germany in September, 1998. This technical and scientific conference focussing on the application of successful warning practices will be sponsored by the Government of Germany with the collaboration of United Nations agencies and international scientific organisations. As a major topical event of the IDNDR closing process and the consolidation of global views, it will work to identify those accomplishments and local experiences which can best inform improved organizational relationships and practical effectiveness for early warning into the 21st century.
The following titles compose the series of information reports of the IDNDR Early Warning Programme:
Early Warning Capabilities for Geological Hazards
Early Warning for Hydrometeorological Hazards, Including Drought
Early Warning for Fire and Other Environmental Hazards
Early Warning for Technological Hazards
Earth Observation, Hazard Analysis and Communications Tech. for Early Warning
National and Local Capabilities for Early Warning
Guiding Principles for Effective Early Warning
The Secretary General’s Report on Early-warning Capacities of the United Nations System with Regard to Natural Disasters presented to the Fiftieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, October 1995. (UN doc. A/50/526).
The Secretary General’s Report on Improved Effectiveness of Early-warning Systems With Regard to Natural and Similar Disasters presented to the Fifty-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly , October 1997. (UN doc.A/52/561).
These reports may be accessed on the IDNDR Website at www.idndr.org. They also may be obtained from the IDNDR Secretariat, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland. or by Fax: 0041-22-733-8695, or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org