Launch of UNESCO’s International Platform on Earthquake Early Warning Systems

The “International Platform on Earthquake Early Warning Systems” (IP-EEWS), is a new initiative launched by UNESCO to create a space that enhances collaboration and knowledge sharing within the scientific community and between scientists, decision- and policy-makers in order to promote the development of early warning systems in earthquake-prone regions and countries. The platform aims to promote international scientific and technological cooperation and to commence a dialogue between knowledge developers and users in an overarching effort to strengthen communities’ preparedness and resilience against earthquake disaster risk. The inception meeting of IP-EEWS took place on 7-8 December at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. World-class experts came together during the inception meeting, which marked a key contribution to implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Bringing about substantial reductions in disaster mortality, the number of people affected and the economic losses caused...

The “International Platform on Earthquake Early Warning Systems” (IP-EEWS), is a new initiative launched by UNESCO to create a space that enhances collaboration and knowledge sharing within the scientific community and between scientists, decision- and policy-makers in order to promote the development of early warning systems in earthquake-prone regions and countries. The platform aims to promote international scientific and technological cooperation and to commence a dialogue between knowledge developers and users in an overarching effort to strengthen communities’ preparedness and resilience against earthquake disaster risk. The inception meeting of IP-EEWS took place on 7-8 December at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

World-class experts came together during the inception meeting, which marked a key contribution to implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Bringing about substantial reductions in disaster mortality, the number of people affected and the economic losses caused are the key focus of the Sendai Framework, a 15-year international agreement adopted in March 2015. Early warning is a key part of that process.

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General, Flavia Schlegel, stressed that “over the past 10 years, earthquakes were responsible for the highest number of deaths from disasters emanating from natural hazards. More focus is needed to mitigate earthquake disaster risk worldwide,” While over 80 percent of disasters over the past decade have been climate-related, earthquakes were the biggest killer, accounting for 70 percent of deaths.
Early warning for hazards such as storms or tsunamis – the latter spawned by earthquakes far from land – have proven their mettle and are being spread worldwide thanks to a range of international initiatives. Earthquakes are much tougher to deal with, however.

“Early warning for earthquakes is almost like the Holy Grail for geologists,” said Patrick Mc Keever, Secretary of the International Geoscience Programme at UNESCO.

Earthquake early warning systems aim to identify and characterize a tremor a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking, and deliver alerts to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. Current technology enables detection to be so rapid that an alert can reach some areas before strong shaking arrives, even though the lead time is minuscule. “You’re talking about seconds, tens of seconds, or just a few minutes’ warning,” said Berkeley’s Professor Allen.

But even such a small window can be effectively used to save many lives.

Have a look here to find out how participants from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) experienced the new initiative.