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An Early Warning System (EWS) is the set of capacities needed to generate and disseminate timely and meaningful warning information. The information should enable individuals, communities and organisations threatened by a hazard to prepare and to act appropriately and in sufficient time to reduce the possibility of harm or loss.
There are a range of factors necessary to achieve effective responses to warnings. A people-centred early warning system necessarily comprises four key elements:
- knowledge of the risks;
- monitoring, analysis and forecasting of the hazards;
- communication or dissemination of alerts and warnings; and
- local capabilities to respond to the warnings received.
The expression “end-to-end warning system” is also used to emphasize that warning systems need to span all steps from hazard detection through to community response.