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New National Preparedness Commission report on 'Enhancing Warnings' from the UCL Warning Research

7 January 2022

A new National Preparedness Commission report on 'Enhancing Warnings' from the UCL WRC offers insights into what warnings are and how they can better support actions for effective behavioural preparedness and responses across a wide range of hazards, stakeholders and sectors.


Report Overview

Warnings are part of our everyday life, whether traffic lights, food health warnings, the weather, advice from colleagues, or moralistic stories. Warnings serve to provide cautionary advice, give advance notice of something, and generate awareness to trigger consequent decisions and actions. Warnings are seldom considered beyond the issuance of a warning, yet warnings are far more complex, requiring a comprehensive tool and system to help implement preventative, mitigative, and disaster risk-reductive actions.

Warnings are not just a siren or phone alert but should be a long-term social process that is a carefully crafted, integrated system of preparedness involving vulnerability analysis and reduction, hazard monitoring and forecasting, disaster risk assessment, and communication. Together, these activities enable a wide range of leaders and others – such as individuals, local groups, governments, and businesses – to take timely and effective action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazards. Warnings are represented via different iconographies and communicated via different mediums that usually express some form of threshold or tipping point. These vary enormously contingent on the hazard, and social, political, and economic context of the warning.

Warnings should provide actionable guidance that is integrated into everyday life and behaviour, providing transparency and credibility to help manage risk in emerging and ongoing situations. Warnings must operate beyond the silos frequently seen in institutions, for different vulnerabilities, different hazards, and different stakeholders to become a long-term social process that can serve to bring together these diverse issues. This report examines how this can be implemented providing key case-study examples of lessons learnt and guidance on how to build effective warning systems.

To enhance a warning requires placing it as part of a warning system, a long-term social process that embodies the 3 I’s ( Imagination, Initiative, Integration) and 3 E’s (Education, Exchange, Engagement).

The authors offer three recommendations and provide guidance on how to implement these recommendations:

  • Develop effective warnings that consider multiple-hazards, cascading events, and integration across stakeholders.
  • Adopt a public engagement and outreach programme that empowers people to identify and fulfil their own needs regarding warnings for enhancing preparedness and response behaviours and actions.
  • Create and support mechanisms to overcome silos and territorialism and instead encourage idea and action exchange for building trust and connections that support action when a major situation arises.

Full report & press release available for free download: https://nationalpreparednesscommission.uk/2022/01/enhancing-warnings/ 

The National Preparedness Commission

We thank the National Preparedness Commission, Lord Toby Harris, and Robert Hall MBCI MSyI for their support and guidance in developing the report. 

The aim of the National Preparedness Commission is to promote better preparedness for major crises or incidents. The Commission includes leading figures with hands-on experience of responding to emergencies and had its inaugural meeting in November 2020. It hears from experts across the world, holds roundtable events and publishes guides and policy papers outlining good practice to ensure an effective response. The objective of the National Preparedness Commission is to urge policymakers ‘to think ahead’ to ensure our society, infrastructure and financial systems are able to cope with major shocks in the future. 
You can find out more here: https://nationalpreparednesscommission.uk