From Top-Down to "Community-Centric" Approaches to Early Warning Systems: Exploring Pathways to Improve Disaster Risk Reduction Through Community Participation

2016-05-30

By Baudoin, M.A., Henly-Shepard, S., Fernando, N., Sitati, A. and Zommers,Z. • 2016

Natural hazards and their related impacts can have powerful implications for humanity, particularly communities with deep reliance on natural resources. The development of effective early warning systems (EWS) can contribute to reducing natural hazard impacts on communities by improving risk reduction strategies and activities. However, current shortcomings in the conception and applications of EWS undermine risk reduction at the grassroots level. This article explores various pathways to involve local communities in EWS from top-down to more participatory approaches. Based on a literature review and three case studies that outline various levels of participation in EWS in Kenya, Hawai'i, and Sri Lanka, the article suggests a need to review the way EWS are designed and applied, promoting a shift from the traditional expert-driven approach to one that is embedded at the grassroots level and driven by the vulnerable communities. Such a community-centric approach also raises multiple challenges linked to a necessary shift of conception of EWS and highlights the need for more research on pathways for sustainable community engagement.

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