Natural Disasters

How investing in early warning systems prove beneficial

For every $1 invested in EWS, there is a return of $6.0 in benefits, showed the study

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 06 August 2019

Investing in early warning systems (EWS) to forecast cyclones can save six times more by preventing damages, according to a study.

EWS are tools for local, national and regional institutions to manage disaster risks and reduce damage and casualties.

While investment in EWS has shown evidence to save lives and help protect property, most preventive measures focus on critical infrastructure to prevent disasters, such as flood-control systems, strengthening building codes, construction of shelters and protecting environmental buffers.

This is because there is a lack of understanding on how to measure effectiveness that leads to limited investment in EWS. Moreover, calculating the benefits of an EWS is complex and limited, due to its limitations on methodology, modelling and data, according to the study published in the Science Direct journal.

A team including Bapon SHM Fakhruddin, technical director at Tonkin + Taylor International from New Zealand, used cost-benefit analysis (CBA) tool to summarise the value for money in terms of investment to enhance an EWS.  

Advance warning of impending tropical cyclones can facilitate planning and preparation against cyclone events and bring great socioeconomic benefits. Investing money to enhance an EWS can, thus, aid in disaster risk reduction, they found.

“In other words, for every $1 invested in EWS, there is a return of $6.0 in benefits,” according to the study.

For the study, the team used a case study on Cyclone Evan in Samoa, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. Samoa comprises of two large volcanic islands (Upolu and Savai'i) and is extremely prone to natural hazards that will be influenced by climate change, (such as sea level rise, tropical cyclones and earthquake-generated tsunami).

Cyclone Evan hit Samoa in December 2012 and caused immense damage and significant losses, estimated to be $103.3 million.

Using CBA tool, the team first considered the quantification of benefits of Early Warning Services and, secondly, calculated the cost of the services.

The estimated 10-year system cost ($3.1 mn) and estimated damage reduction ($8.43 mn) was used in a probabilistic analysis to understand the expected net benefits (for 10-years) of having this improved weather forecasting system in place.

The study also found a forecast error probability of 10 per cent with the system.

“Despite its limitations, the study has considered CBA to be a reliable means of assessing the benefits of early warning systems. The focus here is solely on justifying the economic benefits of investing in risk reduction, rather than offer theories on the impacts of future disasters,” the study revealed.

“We estimate that 81.45 per cent of the all the losses and damages caused by Cyclone Evan could have been avoided if efficient and strong early warning services had been implemented in Samoa at the time of impact,” the researchers said.

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