Early warning – common features

Eugen Seibold
Richard Wagnerstr. 56, D-79104 Freiburg/Breisgau, Germany.
Tel.: +49-761-55 33 68, Fax: +49-761-2 03 64 83


  1. There are different definitions of early warning and different approaches to it. They depend on different scales in space (regional as with earthquakes or floods vs. local as with landslides) or in lead time (as with tropical storms or tsunamis vs. earthquakes or volcanic eruptions).
  2. We have to improve the reliability and exactness of predictions/forecasts from monitoring up to the final formulation of warnings, which should be clearly understandable to the public, about the nature, size and timing of the event.
  3. We have to inform the public in general that there are regions where living with uncertainties and risks and the possibilities of mitigating damage must be taught. People should become familiar with the nature of the hazards and with experiences from the past to cope with the disaster. Children should get instructions by teachers and parents, the public by the media and the authorities additionally by specialists. ‘Nearby’ or ‘yesterday’ events are always the best learning materials.
  4. We have to improve detailed alarm plans with regularly repeated exercises suitable for a) authorities, b) schools, and c) the public, and with the relevant technical means. This could also help to avoid panic in a disaster situation.
  5. At present, and eventually for many coming years, prediction of several natural hazards is extremely difficult, as demonstrated with earthquakes or some types of volcanic eruptions. Therefore every effort has to be directed to provision, as by risk maps or engineering methods.
  6. At the end of my introductory key note I shall underline a proposal of Anthony Michaelis from 1984 to improve our global situation concerning natural hazards. We should ask the United Nations to establish an international disaster research laboratory or a network of such laboratories.
    This should not only be a facility to get information about the state of the art in prediction, relevant technologies, case studies, first aid organisation or insurance matters. It should also include a facility for research into human behaviour, before, during and after disasters, including the role of the media.