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UN proposes to create alerts around the world to save lives in case of extreme heat

Time to Read: 3 minute
UN proposes to create alerts around the world to save lives in case of extreme heat
UN proposes to create alerts around the world to save lives in case of extreme heat
Khushbu Kumari

The UN wants all the inhabitants of the planet to have early warning systems in the next five years. What are they and how do they work?

As the climate hardens, increasing the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, cities such as Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles and Melbourne have taken the step of appointing the so-called “responsible for the fight against the heat”. Your job is to find ways to protect citizens from the dangerous effects of extreme heat.

Eleni Myrivili, a pioneer in Europe when she was appointed to this position in Athens, Greece, affirms that awareness of the risks of natural catastrophes is essential. In that spirit, two years ago, she and her team began classifying heat waves based on their effects on people's health.

“We now have a way of predicting the types of heat waves that are coming next week, and whether or not they are especially dangerous for people,“ he explains.

The initiative, which has since spread to other countries, fits perfectly with the recent announcement by the United Nations (UN) to invest 3.1 billion dollars (2,800 million euros) to ensure that everyone on the planet is covered by early warning systems by 2027.

What are early warning systems and how do they work?

Given the different extreme weather events that require early warnings and the infinite variety of personal circumstances that must be taken into account , there is no single solution to keep people out of harm's way.

According to Kurt Shickman, director of extreme heat initiatives at the Washington-based foundation for climate resilience, the Arsht-Rock Center, says messaging is critical, “because people can do a lot with their own behavior to stay safer”.

Radio, television and text messaging can be powerful communication channels, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN's specialized agency for telecommunications. And text messages can even specifically target people living in risk areas. But with more than 2.7 billion people around the planet still without an Internet connection, these channels can only go so far.

“It is very worrying,” says Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Of the 46 least developed countries in the world, 26 are in Africa. And they are large countries where people live in remote areas, and it is difficult to reach them because they are lagging behind in terms of connectivity”.

ITU is also committed to a multi-hazard approach that takes advantage of everything that is available. In many isolated parts of the world, church bells, loudspeakers and sirens continue to be used as alternative warning systems.

In Athens, the message about coming heat waves is being spread via social media, hotlines and an extreme heat app now also being used in Milan, Paris and Rotterdam.

Zavazava affirms that it is also important to offer the general public regular training and drills so that they know how to interpret the different signs and find the nearest escape routes or shelters.

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