European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Early Warning and Information Systems

© European Union, 2015 (photographer: Ezequiel Scagnetti)
What is it?

The EU’s early warning and information systems help the Emergency Response Coordination Centre to monitor hazards and events around the world, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, tropical cyclones, volcanoes, droughts, floods, and forest fires. The monitoring tools are important instruments to prepare for events and support EU Member State national emergency services to respond whenever it is needed. These systems protect us by providing detailed information on what is happening, where and who is currently affected or will be affected in the future.

Why is this important?

Extreme weather or man-made hazards, such as industrial accidents, can cause a disaster anytime, anywhere. Proper planning, monitoring and early warning can mitigate their damage. Sometimes they even prevent their effects from turning into large-scale emergencies or crises. With the EU’s early warning and information systems, EU Member States have more efficient and resilient emergency response systems in place.

Early warning and information systems are an important cornerstone of the EU’s strategy to protect people living in Europe. They minimise the impact of a disaster, linking the pre-disaster and response phases. The time from detecting an event to alerting the population and emergency services needs to be as short as possible to save lives, protect livelihoods and the environment.

How are we helping?

The European Union supports its Member States in the assessment of hazards by complementing their national early warning and information systems in real-time. These tools contribute to early analysis and early actions through early warnings. Alerts allow the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) to provide a comprehensive early assessment. It also enables early action within the framework of EU Civil Protection inside the EU and worldwide.

Close cooperation with various research institutes facilitates the development of disaster forecasting and disaster management tools for both natural and man-made hazards. The most relevant systems are:

  • The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System: provides alerts and impact estimates at global level for earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, floods, volcanos, and droughts
  • The European and Global Flood Awareness Systems: give warnings on floods up to 10 days in advance for Europe and worldwide
  • The European and Global Forest Fire Information Systems: forecast fire dangers up to 10 days and near-real-time information on active fires and burnt areas globally. They give evidence on the relative severity and risk that each forest fire poses, allowing informed decisions on the deployment of the rescEU firefighting capacity.
  • The European and Global Drought Observatories: give information on droughts risks in Europe and worldwide, including meteorological indicators, soil moisture anomalies, vegetation stress and river low flows

These early warning and information systems are part of the EU’s Copernicus programme. Through its Emergency Management Service, the ERCC can make use of satellites under the Copernicus programme to monitor events before they happen, and to assess their impact once they have hit an area. The Copernicus programme is essential when deployments under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism take place.

The Galileo Satellite System is a satellite-based infrastructure that is using 24 satellites distributed in 3 orbital planes around the earth, combined with a range of ground stations. GEWS will be offered to the Member States as a complementary system to broadcast alert messages using Galileo infrastructure.

As part of its European Scientific Partnerships initiative, the European Commission has established the European Natural Hazard Scientific Partnership (ENHSP), which offers 24/7 monitoring and scientific advice to the ERCC and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. ENHSP covers earthquakes, tsunamis, severe weather, floods, volcanoes and forest fires both at European and global levels and will be expanded to cover man-made hazards in the future.

The European Commission also cooperates with other organisations such as UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). An agreement with the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) has allowed earthquake detection in the Mediterranean area to be considerably quicker and accurate.

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