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What is CBFEWS?

CBFEWS is based on people-centered, timely, simple and low-cost technology. It disseminates information to the vulnerable communities downstream through a network of communities and government bodies.

A properly designed and implemented system can save lives and reduce property loss by increasing the lead time to prepare and respond to flood on ground level. UNEP (2012) defines early warning as “the provision of timely and effective information, through identified institutions, that allows individuals exposed to hazard to take action to avoid or reduce their risk and prepare for effective response”.

Early warning is defined by UNISDR as “the set of capacities needed to generate and disseminate timely and meaningful warning information to enable individuals, communities and organizations threatened by hazards to take necessary preparedness measures and act appropriately in sufficient time to reduce possibility of harms or losses” (ISDR 2006).

cbfews key elements

Community based flood early warning system (CBFEWS) is an integrated system of tools and plans managed by and for communities, providing real-time flood warnings to reduce flood risks. CBFEWS is based on people-centered, timely, simple and low-cost technology. It disseminates information to the vulnerable communities downstream through a network of communities and government bodies. A properly designed and implemented system can save lives and reduce property loss by increasing the lead time to prepare and respond to flood on ground level.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning has identified four key elements for a complete and effective early warning system. Based on UNISDR’s four key elements, CBFEWS has also defined four key elements for its implementation. An isolated approach cannot make the CBFEWS successful. It is important to understand that these four elements are interrelated and failure in one element can result in failure of the entire system. The detail is given in the next sections.

Features of CBFEWS

People-centered

All community members of the vulnerable groups and district government line agencies are involved in planning, implementing, monitoring, disseminating flood early warning information and taking the ownership of the system.

Low cost technology

The manufacturing, repair and maintenance of the system is done at the local level. The initial cost of the complete set of the instrument is approximately USD 1000 (as of May 2015).

Almost real time information

The upstream communities generate information and pass it on to downstream communities as the water level rises in the river.

Information flow

Disseminating and communicating risk information to the concerned communities and authorities is the integral part of the CBFEWS. When flood signal is detected upstream, it needs to be disseminated instantly so that people can prepare and respond to it.

Source of early warning information

Early warning information comes from individuals or organizations that generate a risk message and send it to concerned authorities and vulnerable people.

Recipients of early warning

Warning recipients are nodal persons downstream who are part of the communication network and who receives the warning message from different channels (e.g., directly from the source such as a caretaker or other concerned authorities) and instantly communicate it to the household level.

Early warning message

Warning message is the information sent from the source to the intended recipients in the form of text (e.g., SMS), verbal or sound (siren, telephone, megaphone, shout, etc.) and visual (colour, flag, sign). When flood occurs, the situation does not allow for lengthy conversations.

Communication Channel

Communication channel is the network of people created for information dissemination. An efficient and reliable communication network is important for CBFEWS.

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Community-based Flood Early Warning System: The Story from Then to Now

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Partners and Resources

Partner for technical inputs as well as manufacturing the instruments.

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News and features

Around the HKH

CBFEWS

Staff articles

Flooding in Bhittamore, India (2019)
Preparing for double trouble: Monsoon floods during the pandemic
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Early warning equipment installed at Passu Glacier
Sounding the bell: How the Community Based Flood Early Warning System is saving lives in Gilgit-Baltistan
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CBFEWS in the media and news

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CBFEWS publications

You will find publications produced or related to this Initiative in our publications repository – the HimalDoc. These information materials covers journal articles, books, book chapters, research reports, working papers, brochures, information sheets, and publicity materials including posters and flyers.

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CBFEWS map

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