Emergency Warnings


Current Status of Multi Stakeholder engagement for last mile Early Warning system in the Emergency Operation Centre - DMC

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed the lives of 35000 of Sri Lankan people and displaced one in twenty has highlighted the critical importance of an effective National Early Warning System for Sri Lanka (NEWS:SL). Meeting this need, which has been discussed after each of our too frequent disasters such as the cyclones of 1978 and the floods of 2003, can no longer be postponed. Public warning is a system, the identification, detection and risk assessment of a hazard, the accurate identification of the vulnerability of a population at risk and finally the communication of information to the vulnerable population about the threat in sufficient time and clarity so that they take action to avert negative consequences constitute the system of public warning. Warning allows people to act in order to prevent hazards from becoming disasters. Effective public warning saves lives, reduces economic loss, reduces trauma and disruption in society and instils confidence and a sense of security in the public. It is an important component of the foundation of a sound economy. Recognizing that effective warning is just one of the critical parts of a comprehensive risk management system that includes mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Warning is a crucial component of the overall risk management system that failed in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

DMC will be the main focal point responsible for coordinating early warning, along with the relevant technical agencies and Technical Committees, its dissemination and for ensuring last mile dissemination of same. The Emergency Operations Centre of the DMC will be in constant coordination with all technical agencies responsible for natural and man-made hazards and in instances of any imminent disaster it will take action to inform the responsible officers for onward communication to the sub-national levels and communities. DMC has established an effective early warning system for disasters – natural, technological and man-made - through the Emergency operation Centre of the DMC. Priority will be given for those disasters, such as riverine floods, landslides, flash floods, tropical cyclones, storm/sea surges etc. At the same time for rarer but very destructive hazards such as tsunami, systems are in place. Methods of obtaining information about impending disaster events and issuing early warnings would vary from one hazard to another due to different characteristics of different hazards. With respect to local hazards such as floods and landslides, local systems already available will be strengthened. For other hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, adverse weather conditions and cyclones the relevant agencies will work in constant coordination with the respective regional and international warning centers.

  • Maintaining and operating Early Warning Towers and other early warning dissemination equipment.
  • Dissemination of Early Warning Messages and ensure the receipt at remote vulnerable villagers.
  • Co-ordination of donor assistance to strengthen capacity of technical agencies for early warning.
  • Working out strategy and policy in the given area of activity.
  • Initiating awareness on activities related to early warning among the various agencies and public.
  • Guiding District Disaster Management Units in coordinating and implementing warning dissemination related activities in the Province, district, Local Authority, Division, Grama Niladhari and community levels.
  • Establish coordination with the local technical agencies responsible for forecasting different hazards,
  • Establish a reliable communication system (telephones, radio communication etc.) from technical agencies to the Emergency operating Centre (EOC) and to Provincial / District Control Rooms directly or through (EOC)). Ensure redundancy by having alternative communication systems in place in case of breakdowns in the main system.
  • Have the system established with media and ensure dissemination of information through same.
  • Create awareness among communities and all concerned agencies on the communication system in use for early warning and what immediate actions to be taken, especially on rapid onset disasters.

At present in Sri Lanka, there are several agencies to handle issues related to different hazards / disasters mentioned above. For most of the disasters, there is a government institution legally mandated to monitor the disasters which fall within their expertise. For example, Department of Meteorology is responsible for weather related disasters such as tropical cyclones and tsunami, while Irrigation Department is responsible for river floods.

The present system of communication from national level to district / divisional / local authority / Grama Niladhari levels or other specific identified locations is mainly through the Police and military communication systems, radio communication, multi-hazard early warning towers, media and the normal telephone systems. Alternative countrywide communication systems already been established and with these improvements, DMC ensure that there will be a mechanism to inform the vulnerable communities immediately. These include the Nation-wide Emergency Communication System, which will be used to provide information on:

  • Impending cyclones, floods, landslides, epidemics, sea surges, tsunami and storms etc.
  • Impending floods due to dam breach, rapid opening of sluice gates; dam & reservoir related floods
  • Inundated areas, and closure of roads and bridges that have become impassable and Evacuation routes and safe areas and etc

IOTWS is the main key warning centres for the Tsunami early warnings. INCOISE, Aus MET and the Indonesian Met departments are working together to send more technical information to the DMC and MET in SL. Several Methods were integrated with early warning from National level upto grass root level. EOC was strengthened with Police and tri-forces units in the national level with their own coeducation equipment.

  • Media.
  • Early Warning Towers.
  • Police & Military Communication
  • Cell Broadcast/ SMS
  • Intra Governmental Network
  • Satellite & Radio Communication (HF & VHF)
  • Telephones / CDMA/ GSM
  • Radio Communication
  • Telephones/Fax / CDMA/ GSM
  • Police & Military Communication
  • Media
  • Telephones / CDMA/ GSM
  • Police Vehicles – Announcements NGOs and CBOs
  • PA Systems
  • Sirens ( Hand and Electric)
  • Temple and church bells
  • Riders/ Push Bicycle & Motor Cycles/Messengers
  • SMS / Cell Broad cast
  • Early Warning Towers
  • Media
  • Traditional and Religious methods
  • Early Warning Committees (Door to Door)

From the above locations (district / divisional / local authority / Grama Niladhari levels or other identified specific locations) onwards, the dissemination to the communities through following various methods: Personnel and agencies such as Local authority officials, GNs, Local Police, CBOs, NGOs, Military, Police and Volunteers will be involved in the dissemination activities. The effectiveness of the methods will be different in different locations depending on the location specific characteristics.

In the wake of sufferings caused by natural and man-made disasters in the last couple of decades, a new realization was taken place in the DMC. There prevails a general comprehension to minimize the losses both to life and property to a maximum possible level through effective communication, utilizing all media. Media coordination is done in 24 hour basis in the Disaster Management Center by appointing a media spokesperson and a media team.

  • Coordination of all Local and foreign media and provide early warnings and Information for the general public through electronic and printed media.
  • Conduct Press briefings for the Disaster Situations and Special Events in the Disaster Management Centre.
  • Prepare Press releases as per the requirement and update the situations accordingly.
  • Conduct awareness programs for the Media at nationally and locally.

Call Center

General: +94 112 136 136
Emergency Operation Center:+94 112 136 222 /
+94 112 670 002
Fax: +94 11 2670079