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Integration of a Technological Tool in an Early Warning System within its Social Context: A Case Study from Durazno, Uruguay

Reiter, Ane Carina LU (2018) VBRM15 20181
Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety
Abstract
A disaster is not just natural but largely of social and political origin. To be effective, an early warning system must therefore be viewed as a social process with a strong focus on the people at risk. This contrasts with the conventional view on an early warning system that it is a pure engineering and technological solution, following a linear chain from observation to dissemination of warning. Technology is an important enabling factor for successful disaster risk, and rather than neglecting the technological aspect of an EWS, it should be embraced within its social context. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of the integration of a technological tool in an EWS within its social context through a case study of a flood... (More)
A disaster is not just natural but largely of social and political origin. To be effective, an early warning system must therefore be viewed as a social process with a strong focus on the people at risk. This contrasts with the conventional view on an early warning system that it is a pure engineering and technological solution, following a linear chain from observation to dissemination of warning. Technology is an important enabling factor for successful disaster risk, and rather than neglecting the technological aspect of an EWS, it should be embraced within its social context. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of the integration of a technological tool in an EWS within its social context through a case study of a flood EWS in Durazno in Uruguay. The study is approached from the perspective of the authorities and scientific developers of a technological decision-making tool at the center of the EWS. The study finds that the decision-making process regarding emergency planning for floods has improved significantly with the technological tool in terms of time to plan response and increased trust of the people in the authorities. The tool plays a significant role in the decision-making process regarding evacuation, and is always used due to the authorities’ high level of trust in the tool. Although, the term ‘EWS’ generally is perceived to only include the technological aspect of the EWS, the study finds that the technological tool to some degree is embedded in its social context. It is, however, only to a limited degree, and the social aspects of the EWS need to be further developed to make it a true effective EWS. (Less)
Popular Abstract
To be effective, an early warning system needs to be viewed as a social process with a strong focus on the people at risk, and therefore the technological component of an early warning should be embedded within its social context. This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the integration of a technological tool in an early warning system within its social context through a case study from Durazno in Uruguay.

The last decades technology for successful disaster risk reduction has gained prominence all around the world. Examples of risk reduction efforts that integrate technological components such as forecast models and geographic information systems for risk and vulnerability mapping have shown that technology can contribute... (More)
To be effective, an early warning system needs to be viewed as a social process with a strong focus on the people at risk, and therefore the technological component of an early warning should be embedded within its social context. This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the integration of a technological tool in an early warning system within its social context through a case study from Durazno in Uruguay.

The last decades technology for successful disaster risk reduction has gained prominence all around the world. Examples of risk reduction efforts that integrate technological components such as forecast models and geographic information systems for risk and vulnerability mapping have shown that technology can contribute to the resilience of people at risk. Although technology thus plays an important role in reducing risks, it is widely acknowledged that technological enterprises are insufficient in themselves to reduce disaster risk since a disaster is not just natural but also of social and political origin. The conventional view of an early warning system is that is a pure technological solution of a monitoring and warning service, following a linear chain from observation through warning generation to the dissemination of the warning to the people at risk. This contrasts with most disaster risk reduction literature which calls for a shift towards a people-centred view on an early warning system that comprises four elements: risk knowledge, monitoring and warning service, dissemination and communication, and response capability.

In 2011, a flood early warning system was implemented in Durazno in Uruguay based on a hydrological-hydrodynamic model. Final project reports on the implementation and further development of the early warning system introduce the system as a pure technological support tool for local decision-makers to improve emergency planning. From the perspective of the authorities and the scientific developers of the technological decision-making tool for the early warning system, it was examined in how far the technological tool is included in its social context.

The results of the study showed that although the term ‘early warning system’ generally is used to refer to the technological tool, the early warning system is included in its social context to some degree. Firstly, the technological tool does not trigger evacuation due to the presence of a political-social decision-making component in terms of certainty of the information from the tool and furthermore in minimizing the time that people spend outside their houses while being evacuated. Secondly, all of the elements of a people-centred early warning system are present, although the focus on the dissemination and communication element and the response capability element has been very limited so far.

The study provides several recommendations for the local and national authorities to develop the social aspect of the early warning system further in order to make it truly people-centred. For example, a participatory bottom-up approach to early warning is suggested to maintain the trust of the people in the authorities. Being selected as a representative case rather than for its uniqueness, the learning outcomes from this case on the flood early warning system in Durazno can be extended to other cases. Specifically, the lessons learned represent an opportunity to inform the development of other similar flood early warning systems in other cities in Uruguay. (Less)
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author
Reiter, Ane Carina LU
supervisor
organization
course
VBRM15 20181
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Early warning system, technology decision-making, people-centred DRM, disaster risk reduction
language
English
id
8959641
date added to LUP
2018-10-03 13:41:21
date last changed
2018-10-03 13:41:21
@misc{8959641,
  abstract     = {A disaster is not just natural but largely of social and political origin. To be effective, an early warning system must therefore be viewed as a social process with a strong focus on the people at risk. This contrasts with the conventional view on an early warning system that it is a pure engineering and technological solution, following a linear chain from observation to dissemination of warning. Technology is an important enabling factor for successful disaster risk, and rather than neglecting the technological aspect of an EWS, it should be embraced within its social context. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of the integration of a technological tool in an EWS within its social context through a case study of a flood EWS in Durazno in Uruguay. The study is approached from the perspective of the authorities and scientific developers of a technological decision-making tool at the center of the EWS. The study finds that the decision-making process regarding emergency planning for floods has improved significantly with the technological tool in terms of time to plan response and increased trust of the people in the authorities. The tool plays a significant role in the decision-making process regarding evacuation, and is always used due to the authorities’ high level of trust in the tool. Although, the term ‘EWS’ generally is perceived to only include the technological aspect of the EWS, the study finds that the technological tool to some degree is embedded in its social context. It is, however, only to a limited degree, and the social aspects of the EWS need to be further developed to make it a true effective EWS.},
  author       = {Reiter, Ane Carina},
  keyword      = {Early warning system,technology decision-making,people-centred DRM,disaster risk reduction},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Integration of a Technological Tool in an Early Warning System within its Social Context: A Case Study from Durazno, Uruguay},
  year         = {2018},
}