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Designing Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems

From perceptions to saving lives

Resilience First, together with the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) and University College London, have embarked on this exciting research, funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation. The project will operationalise the World Risk Poll by conducting statistical analysis of the Poll data to identify factors influencing people’s choice of and trust in sources of information about disasters, as well as levels of individual and household preparedness.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of natural hazards, changing the distribution of extremes, and creating new compound dynamics that are amplified by societal and organizational vulnerabilities. Modern disaster management doctrine emphasises public information and warning as core emergency response functions. Despite being widely acclaimed for saving lives, early warning systems are only available to half the countries in the world. Last-mile outreach, or the communication of warnings, is often identified as a persistent gap. Notwithstanding the relatively good coverage of dissemination technologies, preparedness remains one of the most problematic areas.

The development and implementation of national and international early warning policies, guidelines and plans needs to be informed by scientific evidence regarding perceptions and behaviors that affect individual, household, organizational, and community resilience. Yet, despite a growing body of research on people’s disaster behaviors and responses, critical knowledge gaps remain about what makes effective public warning systems. Little is known about the socio-economic factors that may affect people’s choice of information sources about possible disasters and which organization is considered the most trusted source of information. Equally elusive are the factors that drive individual and household preparedness, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on warning effectiveness.

In an effort to partially address this gap, Resilience First, University College London, and the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure have embarked on a project to operationalise the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll by conducting statistical analysis of the Poll data to identify factors influencing people’s choice of and trust in sources of information about disasters, as well as levels of individual and household preparedness. The project is funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation and aspires to create new knowledge about early warning systems, thus helping improve public warning capabilities around the world.

We are going to use statistical methods to analyze the data in the World Risk Poll to compare it across different groups of people, which will allow us to see patterns and trends. We hope that this will help us identify which social factors influence where people get information about possible disasters, which organizations they go to for that information, and what affects individual and family disaster preparedness. We will also look at the data to identify whether, and to what extent, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how people think about the threats they are faced with and their trust in government. We will test factors such as age, level of education, household size, household income, prior disaster experience, warning experience and others.


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George Karagiannis discusses how to improve local practitioners’ capacity when it comes to disaster risk resilience and response.

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Recent advances and ongoing challenges in public warning

George Karagiannis, Gianluca Pescaroli and Sarah Dryhurst highlight early warning systems as a common disaster and crisis response function in nearly all types of hazards and threats and that they are needed for holistically managing cascading, compound, and interconnected risks.

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Project Team

David Alexander

Professor of Emergency Planning and Management, UCL

David Alexander is Professor of Emergency Planning and Management at University College London (UCL). He graduated in geography at the London School of Economics and obtained his PhD in Mediterranean geomorphology from UCL. From 1982 until 2002 he taught geomorphology, physical geography, natural hazards and disaster studies at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst (USA). Over the period 2003-2007 he was Scientific Director of the Advanced School of Civil Protection of the regional government of Lombardy. As a Professor at the University of Florence (2005-11) he was a leading member of the team that designed, launched and taught Italy's first Master of Civil Protection course. Alexander is Visiting Professor at the Universities of Tohoku and Yamaguchi (Japan). Alexander's book Natural Disasters was published in London and New York in 1993 and has frequently been reprinted. His subsequent books include Confronting Catastrophe (2000), Principles of Emergency Planning and Management (2002), Recovery from Disaster (with Ian Davis, 2015) and How to Write an Emergency Plan (2016). He is the founding Editor of Elsevier's International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, and was formerly Co-Editor of Disasters journal. He is a member of the editorial boards of 14 academic journals. He is Vice-President and Chairman of the Trustees of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, which is the oldest learned society in the field of disaster reduction. In 2013 Alexander won the Distinguished Research Award of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM).

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Savina Carluccio

Executive Director, ICSI

Savina Carluccio is the Executive Director of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) and a fervent advocate of the role of civil engineers in tackling our society’s biggest challenges. She is an experienced Civil Engineer and infrastructure practitioner with almost two decades of experience advising government, infrastructure owners and operators, multi-lateral development banks and NGOs to develop and implement inclusive, sustainable and resilient infrastructure that is fit for the future. Prior to taking her role at ICSI, she worked as an Associate Director and infrastructure advisor at Arup and she was the Head of Guidance and Standards at the Resilience Shift. She also serves as a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Advisory Board on sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

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Sarah Dryhurst

Lecturer in Risk Perception and Communication, UCL

Dr. Sarah Dryhurst is Lecturer in Risk Perception and Communication at University College London and a Research Affiliate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. A psychologist and ecologist by training, she researches how people understand and respond to communications of risk and uncertainty across domains, from climate change to earthquakes to infectious diseases, and how misinformation may influence how people think about these issues and act in response to them. Prior to joining UCL, Sarah was a Research Associate at the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge. She obtained her PhD in Climate Change Ecology from Imperial College London, and holds degrees in psychology, zoology, and conservation biology.

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George Karagiannis

Risk and Resilience Programme Director, Resilience Rising

Dr. George is responsible for the development of a risk and resilience programme in the organization, leading on multiple projects and initiatives including the Turning the World Risk Poll into Action project, funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation. From 2019 to 2022, he was Greece’s Deputy Secretary-General for Civil Protection. Before that, he was Technical Officer at the European Commission Joint Research Center, where his area of expertise revolved around emergency management, critical infrastructure protection and hybrid threats. Prior to joining the Joint Research Center, he was a Disaster Management Consultant. He has worked in four countries, developed two strategic national risk assessments, helped organize over 60 exercises, developed a dozen emergency operations plans and responded to disasters in the field. He also was a Research Scientist at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, where his interdisciplinary research lay at the intersection of systems engineering and disaster resilience. George earned his Doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from Saint-Etienne School of Mines in France. He also holds degrees in Civil Engineering, Disaster Management and Business Administration, and is a Certified Emergency Manager by the International Association of Emergency Managers.

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Gianluca Pescaroli

Associate Professor in Operational Continuity and Organisational Resilience, UCL

Dr. Gianluca Pescaroli is Associate Professor in Operational Continuity and Organisational Resilience at University College London (UCL). His research investigates how to build and improve the continuity of operations during disruptive events, how to minimise their impacts, and how to increase the resilience of the public and private sectors. This includes managing complex challenges such as cascading risks, critical infrastructure failures, systemic and compound dynamics. Gianluca’s work is impact -oriented, aiming to bridge academia and practice. In 2016, he co-founded the Research Group on Cascading Disasters at UCL. Since then, he contributed to strategic documents such as the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s Regional and Global Assessment Reports. He was one of the lead authors of the Flagship Report Science for Disaster Risk Management 2020: acting today, protecting tomorrow, drafted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Gianluca is active in consultancies for local authorities and international organisations on topics such as resilience to cascading scenarios, the has a track record of events organised in partnership with stakeholders such as the United Nations and DRI international. Since 2023, Gianluca is Scientific Lead of the EU Horizon Europe project “AGnostic risk management for high Impact Low probability events” (AGILE), with 15 international partners. He is UCL lead in the project EO4MULTIHAZARDS financed by the European Space Agency with seven international partners and other forthcoming projects financed by the UK research councils .

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