The Flash Flood Guidance System – early warnings for the most vulnerable

When it comes to early warnings, forecasting systems alone are not enough: Communicating down to the last mile is essential to save lives and property. The WMO Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) and the US Agency for International Development Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) recently launched a new activity to improve flash flood early warning communication to that last mile. The Community-Based Flood Management (CBFM) was initiated to hone responses to FFGS warnings, to develop self-help capacities and to increase the resilience of communities. CBFM puts into application methods developed by the joint WMO/Global Water Partnership (GWP) Associated Programme on Flood Management.

Over the months of November and December, WMO visited communities in the Chikwawa district, Malawi, and in Turrialba, Costa Rica, which both experienced flooding in 2021 and 2022. These visits and CBFM national consultation workshops gathered insights from various stakeholders – communities, national authorities, firefighters, the disaster risk management agency, district and municipality representatives and the Red Cross. This provided an opportunity to better understand issues and needs and to identify potential solutions for building preparedness and resilience to flash flood events. A Workshop in gender mainstreaming for end-to-end early warning system for flood forecasting was also included in Costa Rica, as flood events have different impacts on men and women and it is important to develop and utilize the knowledge and skills of women, youths and other vulnerable groups in different processes related to flood management.

In 2023, activities that respond to stakeholder needs in both areas will be implemented and led by local organizations. These will involve capacity building on participatory risk assessment, the formation of CBFM committees, the development of community-based manuals, hazard maps and plans. The solutions will be tested through simulation activities and drills such as marking the level of previous flood events, and improved in coordination and collaboration with stakeholders.

The FFGS, through the CBFM activities, will play an essential role in helping Members reach the target of providing Early Warnings for All within five years. CBFM activities in Malawi and Costa Rica, if successful, may be replicated in other flood prone communities that need similar approaches to strengthen capacities and resilience to climate change events.

Turrialba river and town, Costa Rica

An exchange between stakeholders from the Red Cross, firefighter, gender focal point, NMHS, municipalities during the CBFM workshop in Costa Rica

More detailed information on the FFGS programme can be found on the FFGS webpage.

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