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Early Warning System

Preface

Nations strive to improve the welfare and stability of its people and communities as part of the comprehensive development strategy. With the increasingly crises and disasters in the recent decades, the results of such disasters can severely affect the governments plans in objectives. Instead of focusing on achieving the goals, governments are struggling to reduce the impact of these disasters. Therefore, the importance of preparedness through effective early warning systems can significantly reduce the impacts and save lives.

In addition, governments around the world are seeking to ensure security and stability and to do their best to support comprehensive and sustainable development and to protect their people, land and property through the systems to minimize the impact of emergencies, crises and disasters. Given the importance and effectiveness of early warning systems in contributing to this, the international community has shown remarkable interest in the development and implementation of such of frameworks, policies and technologies.

The United Nations has defined early warning as a set of capacities for the preparation and dissemination of clear, understandable and timely warning information to enable individuals, communities and organizations at risk to prepare and respond appropriately and in sufficient time to reduce damage and loss of lives.

In order to ensure the safety of the public in the UAE, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) was established and tasked with the task of developing the necessary capabilities, policies and frameworks. As part of its continuous efforts in increasing the resilience and readiness of the UAE in facing disasters and crises, and with the innovation in the field of emergency, NCEMA has worked to develop and activate a comprehensive national early warning system, referred to as “The National Early Warning System”. With such strategy, this will enhance the UAE’s position in the region and the world in terms of readiness and emergency management.

The National Early Warning System

The National Early Warning System project was started in 2017 in line with NCEMA’s new strategic plan (2017-2021). The project is divided into different stages. In the first phase, which was in 2017, NCEMA was able with its strategic partners from different sectors of the governmental sector (TRA) and the mobile operations (Etisalat and Du) to complete the stage and use the first means of dissemination (Mobile phones), through the use of advanced technologies and systems.

The National Early Warning System (EWS) is a set of procedures, policies and technologies, together, focus on the wellbeing and safety of all residents in the UAE, including the visitors. This is achieved through effective and fast public warning. The importance of EWS lies in the following main objectives:

 

  1. 1. Preserve lives and property by reducing the impact of emergency crises and disasters, by reaching as many people as possible to warn them of the potential danger or threat through various means of disseminations in a timely manner.
  2. 2. The governance of the EWS throughout the country and all the government agencies and institutions in the UAE for the proper coordination in the process of warning and dissemination and to ensure the effectiveness of public response and interaction.
  3. 3. Ensure the accuracy and speed of issuance of warnings through the activation of integrated electronic systems.
  4. 4. Supporting the emergency management system in the UAE in all the phases of an emergency.
  5. 5. Strengthening the status of the UAE and its classification in the global indicators of readiness.

Figure (1) illustrates the overall perception of the system from the creation of the warning alert by the government agency to the public through the use of different means of dissemination channels (e.g. mobile phones, smart road signage/billboards, radios, televisions and loudspeakers in mosques) available in the country:

The Public’s Role and Responsibility

The response capabilities of the public through effective acknowledgement of the warning alerts and following the instructions given in them, is the most important factor in preserving and protecting lives during emergencies.

Warning Alerts

When an event, emergency or crisis occurs, the alerting authority will issue the warning alert with the necessary instructions and actions to be taken by the public. The message is routed to mobile phones and a warning message is displayed on the mobile phone screen. In addition, the mobile phone’s behavior will include a vibration and a loud warning tone to draw the public’s attention. Arabic has been adopted as an official language for warning messages in addition to English, which is the secondary language spoken in the country. Figures (2) and (3) are example of the warning alerts on the mobile devices:

  

Video Illustration (1) is an example of the mobile phone’s behavior when receiving the warning alert:

Frequency Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. 1. Are all the mobile phones ready to receive warning messages?
    Majority of the phones have been updated through the manufacturers to comply with the specifications we developed for the UAE. Older phones (3 or more years old mobile phones) are not compatible. Moreover, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), issued a law enforcing the new phones entering the UAE market to be enabled with early warning requirements.
  2. 2. Does the public need to configure any settings to receive the warning alerts?
    No, the features and capabilities to receive the warning alerts are enabled by default and as per the approved specifications. Major mobile phone manufacturers have released updates during Q4 in 2017 to enable these features. The below tables describe the types and classes of the warning alerts:
  3. Alert Class Description Status Can be Enabled/Disabled by the user?
    One For use during national emergencies Enabled by default No
    Two For use during emergencies on a federal level Enabled by default No
    Three For use during emergencies on a local level Enabled by default No
    Four For use by local authorities on the Emirate level Enabled by default Yes
    Five For tests only Disabled by default Yes
    Six For use during national exercises Enabled by default No
  4. 3. Does the alerting agency or NCEMA know my location?
    No. The UAE government respects the privacy of its people and residents, and preserving the privacy is one of the top priorities of the government. The technology used to deliver warning alerts is called cellular broadcast (CB), and if the warning alert was issued to for a specific geographical location, and if that cell is within the area selected, the alert gets delivered to all the mobile devices in that location.
  5. 4. Will the visitors to the UAE receive the warning alerts also?
    Yes.
  6. 5. What are the alerting authorities that are allowed to issue warning alerts?
    The task of issuing warning alerts is limited to only the governmental agencies involved in the national emergency management, whom are responsible of the public safety and saving lives, and they are:
  • National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA)
  • Ministry of Interior
  • Abu Dhabi Police
  • Dubai Police
  • Sharjah Police
  • Ajman Police
  • Um Al Quwain Police
  • Ras Al Khaimah Police
  • Fujairah Police
  • Ministry of Health & Prevention
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