The EU’s landmark decision to make modern public warning mandatory marks a shift of focus from reactive to preventative attitudes when it comes to managing ongoing emergencies. If a city is destroyed by an earthquake, we would not re-build the city in the same way. Instead, we would analyse how the structures can be adapted to stop the buildings collapsing again. It’s the same logic with public warning. Some countries may already use public warning apps, but can we really expect everyone to download an app? Others may use social media, but how many will check these accounts regularly or what’s more, during a crisis? It’s clear (and has been clear for a long time) that these methods are not successful by themselves.
Chile serves as an excellent example. After the devastating earthquake in February 2010, authorities recognised the urgent need to strengthen the country’s public warning system. Originally created to help warn of tsunamis, the Emergency Alert System – Chile’s Reverse 112 – is now used for a wide range of other emergencies, including forest fires and volcanic activities. In a country where it is often difficult or impossible to predict risks, Reverse 112 is literally lifesaving.