Early Warning & Alert Systems


Towards Better Protection of Citizens against Disaster Risks: Strengthening Early Warning Systems in Europe

  • Objectives
  • Methodology
  • Expected Results

Developing effective early warning and coordination systems can save thousands of lives and protect people, property and the environment in the event of natural and man-made disasters. Civil Protection can benefit from improved analysis tools to handle the vast amount of information available at all levels of the organization. The use of geo-spatial early warning decision support systems (GE-DSS) combined with integrated geographic information system (GIS) solutions and multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) fuses text and geographic information into one view. The goal of DECATASTROPHIZE (DECAT) is to use geo-spatial decision support systems (GE-DSS) for rapid deployment, interoperability, transferability and sustainability to assess, prepare for and respond to multiple and/or simultaneous natural and man-made hazards, disasters, and environmental incidents by using existing models/systems in a synergistic way on ONE multi-platform, distributed and integrated FRAMEWORK called DECAT (TETRAD) in each partner country.

In addition to integrating the a) GE-DSS, b) MCDA, c) Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs), and d) Operational Resources (OR) in the field in each partner country, the DECAT methodological FRAMEWORK will also integrate hazard/risk assessment with the common operational picture. So far, there are very few studies utilizing this geo-spatial methodological concept and plan to meet specific civil protection priorities. No studies using a GE-DSS based FRAMEWORK with a MCDA to integrate and link decision makers, EOCs and OR’s in the field for multi-hazard or disaster preparedness in accordance with/relative to the New EU Civil Protection Mechanism PREPAREDNESS PRIORITIES have been carried out or demonstrated. To this end, the objectives, actions, and expected results of DECATASTROPHIZE are consistent with components of the New Civil Protection Mechanism concerning training, exercises, exchange of experts, interoperability and transferability of modules, and the use of geo-spatial information /maps derived from satellite remote sensing.

Therefore, this project is expected to a) create better prerequisites for, and improve preparedness, as well as enhance awareness of, civil protection and/or marine pollution professionals and volunteers, b) support and complement the efforts of the participating states for the protection of citizens, environment and property in the event of natural and man-made disasters, c) exchange information, experience, good practice and knowledge aimed at improving the performance of parties involved in civil protection (both private and public professionals and volunteers) and d) support the EU candidate countries and potential candidates not participating in the Mechanism and European Neighbourhood Policy countries in the field of disaster preparedness and enhance their cooperation within the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and its participating states.

The approach of DECATASTROPHIZE will be based on an innovative process applying a holistic, integrated and synergistic approach to preparedness priorities. In close consultation with civil protection stakeholders from public authorities, the partners will elaborate and implement an innovative geo-spatial multi-hazard approach to develop near-real-time early-warning alert systems and improve rapid analytical capacity for disaster preparedness and response. DECATASTROPHIZE endeavors to build a GE-DSS/MCDA based on a FRAMEWORK that will link decision-makers with civil protection resources in the field through jurisdictional EOCs. The partners of DECATASTROPHIZE will join forces to elaborate a multi-platform FRAMEWORK to address hazards. The design of the GE-DSS will be the first phase of the project. It shall include a set of hazard/vulnerability analyses to prioritize hazards and identify vulnerabilities in the test areas; a needs assessment to establish the needs of end-users in terms of an electronically shared common operational picture; and the design of a MCDA approach to help point out the most vulnerable elements at risk. Once the design features are established, the components of the GEDSS will be assembled. Specifically, project partners will establish appropriate geo-databases for test areas and use existing hazard models to produce hazard and vulnerability geo-spatial information for earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, floods, forest fires and marine oil spills. The GEDSS in the FRAMEWORK will consist of one source code with six geodatabases, i.e., one GE-DSS for each partner and risk data in the respective test area. Each partner organization will be in a position to manage and monitor its own data/database and their results using MCDA. The GE-DSS will be demonstrated at the local, regional and national levels. A set of six interlinked databases on hazards, disaster threats will be developed for Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Hungary and Italy. Each GE-DSS will be tested in realistic scenarios to confirm that they can improve decision making in emergencies. A set of disaster exercises (Table Top and Command Post) will be conducted with a view to assessing the transferability and utility and of the GE-DSS in disaster preparedness and response. This test will really help evaluate the added value of the GEDSS/ FRAMEWORK in decision making, as for example Cyprus Civil Defense lacks a similar system.

The most important end product of DECATASTROPHIZE is a single source code and an integrative and synergistic geo-spatial tool usable by all EU Member-States, including full supporting documentation(User’s Guide, Technical Reference and User’s Training Manual). Hazard and vulnerability analyses on locations in six partner countries and a number of technical reports will provide the scientific foundation and background of the GE-DSS. The GE-DSS will facilitate early warning in the sense that it will provide timely geospatial (RS/GIS) information that will allow effective action to be taken to avoid or reduce risks and improve preparedness. In times of crisis, the GE-DSS/FRAMEWORK will enable decision makers to instantly assimilate and analyze dynamic streams of information from the field to make actionable decisions for multi-hazard or disaster preparedness.

Although the geodatabases will be specific to specific areas in the six partner countries, the approach itself is readily applicable, deployable, interoperable and transferrable (ADIT) to other countries/territories. Provided appropriate risk assessment information is input into the system (e.g. information from the EU Risk Overview), the approach can be used by the ERCC not only in its traditional capacity as the Union Civil Protection Mechanism operational coordination center, but also to streamline the scheduling of resources in the framework of the European Emergency Response Capacity, as well as in its new role as the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response coordination hub.

The use and utility of the DECATASTROPHIZE GE-DSS will be field-tested using simulation exercises with a building-block or progressive approach. Table Top Exercises at the local level (TTX-L) will be conducted in six of the partner countries. A regional Table Top Exercise (TTX-R) will be conducted in the Veneto Region of Italy, while a national-level Command Post Exercise (CPX) will be conducted in Cyprus.


Developing effective early warning and alert systems save lives and protect citizens, property and the environment in the event of natural and man-made disasters. In its document “Towards Better Protection of Citizens against Disaster Risks: Strengthening Early Warning Systems in Europe”, the Commission points out that it seeks to follow a multi-hazard approach, to develop near real time alert systems, to ensure a near real time dissemination of alerts to Participating States, and to improve its rapid analytical capacity.

Disasters are notorious for extending across multiple jurisdictions and the modern disaster response operational environment is fraught with agencies with different mandates. Multi-agency coordination systems emphasize the need for joint incident action planning. A common operational picture facilitates collaborative planning and fosters situational awareness.

The amount of content that must be reviewed in order to track a hazard and prepare for a disaster is dramatically increasing. Traditional natural disaster data collection and existing models or systems and external open sources all contribute to the available information. Disaster preparedness and response naturally carries a geographic component. Every flood or earthquake happens somewhere and Civil Protection workers need location information to accomplish their mission. Information analysis is currently done in a virtual text-only world rather than in the context of geo­spatial data and digital maps. Therefore, analysis tools to handle the vast amount of information available at all levels of the organization are needed. With recent reorganizations and personnel shortages, improvements to analysis tools are even more vital.

Models for single hazards do currently exist. This project focuses on the use and adaptation of EXISTING MODELS, SYSTEMS or TOOLS in an INTEGRATIVE and SYNERGISTIC capacity for prepare for disasters and plan for MULTI-HAZARD incidents. In addition, the proposal addresses/deals with the challenge/gap/issue to integrate risk assessment with the common operational picture. The use of a gee-spatial early-warning decision support system (GE-DSS), combined with a geographic information system (GIS) solution, fuses text and geographic information into one view. This enables local, regional and national Civil Protection authorities to detect patterns in large collections of documents based on their relationship with locations. Now a standard analysis tool in many intelligence organizations, Civil Protection can leverage geospatial technology with large databases and a DSS to improve situational awareness and preparedness.

Finally, Civil Protection authorities have varying degrees of early warning capabilities, while the level of preparedness and interoperability within the European Union and beyond could be increased by using remote sensing and/or geographic information analysis.