The county of Sogn og Fjordane frequently experiences avalanches and landslides, storm surges and flooding. A demonstration project explored the potential for an effective, reliable and cost-efficient early warning system that has a multi-hazard approach and makes use of location and population-based communication technologies, such as mobile phones, as well as social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The system was tested with a sample warning followed by a survey and data analysis to judge its efficacy.

General description

Sogn og Fjordane is a coastal, mountainous region of Norway that boasts hundreds of thousands of tourist visits annually. Several communities in Sogn og Fjordane are facing numerous hazards such as flooding, avalanches, rock slides and other extreme weather events, that might be exacerbated by climate change. To respond to the challenge an early warning system was developed and tested within a EU research project. The multi-hazard warning system aimed at optimising rescue and other emergency services provided by the county. Due to tourism, it aims to be a cost-effective method reaching all people in the geographic area and not only residents.

A public warning exercise was carried out in 2010 with 2,500 mobile phones receiving the alert as text message and 322 fixed line phones in Aurland received the alert as voice message. The warning exercise was visible on Facebook for 2 hours and received 201,849 viewings. A post-exercise survey was carried out online and a door-to-door survey was conducted in parts of the area to assess the public’s thoughts on the exercise. The population warning exercise was evaluated to measure the efficiency of the warning system by combining an electronic evaluation form and a door-to-door survey.

Key lessons learnt

The project demonstrated how an existing county-encompassing organization could be used to issue the population warning. While the technical aspects of people-centred warning systems are at large readily available, issues concerning confidentiality legislation and system regulations must be solved before successfully implementing efficient location-based warning systems. In order to use social media during crisis situations, the projected concluded that research is needed.

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