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13 December 2013


Central/South American countries to strengthen early warning systems in urban areas

As part of its commitment to promoting the development of multi-hazard early warning systems (EWS) in urban areas, WMO joined with several partners to organize a workshop from 10-12 December on “Multi-Hazard Warning Systems in Urban Areas in Central America.” Hosted by Costa Rica through the National Commission on Emergencies (CNE) and the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), the workshop explored the challenges, gaps, needs and opportunities for strengthening early warning systems and climate resilience in large and medium-sized cities in Central America.  

Mr Juan Carlos Fallas, Director-General of IMN and President of WMO Regional Association IV (North America, Central America and the Caribbean), summarized the case for strengthening urban early warning systems. He cited key vulnerabilities such as the growing size of cities in the region, the increasing vulnerability of expanding populations, weak infrastructures (such as drainage systems and buildings), and current zoning codes. As a result of these factors, urban populations are highly exposed to hydrometeorological hazards such as severe precipitation and flash floods.

Ms Maryam Golnaraghi, Chief of WMO’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Programme, stressed that effective early warning systems are an essential component of disaster risk reduction and can best be delivered through operational partnerships between disaster risk management agencies and municipal governments. WMO seeks to support National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in developing these systems through technical assistance for severe weather forecasting, storm surge and coastal inundation forecasting, flash flood guidance, and integrated data processing. In addition, the WMO Information System (WIS) and WMO regional and global specialized centers are well positioned to support early warning systems in urban as well as rural areas.

The Costa Rica workshop explored good practices by urban early warning systems in a number of cities in South America and the Caribbean. The examples that were presented demonstrated the critical need for operational cooperation involving different national agencies and municipal governments. The meeting concluded by recommending that the technical capacity of NMHSs for providing meteorological, hydrological and climate services to municipal areas be strengthened. Key capacities include nowcasting and longer-term forecasting, effective observing networks, and cooperation amongst national agencies and local governments. It also recommended preparing relevant and actionable risk-based warning messages and dissemination channels, developing coordinated emergency drills and evaluation systems, and launching multi-agency national projects for urban early warning systems.

In addition, the workshop discussed concrete opportunities such as national capacity development projects involving regional cooperation and regional technical and multi-stakeholder training activities that WMO and its partners could undertake collaboratively to support countries.

The workshop was led by WMO and co-sponsored by regional and international partners, including the Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the World Bank, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the United Nation International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UN-ISDR) and USAID-OFDA. For more information see the workshop webpage.





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