Quotidian Early Warning Solutions for Developing Economies

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In South Asia, poor early warning dissemination is one of the major reasons for high casualties in disasters. Although Odisha has taken pioneering initiative to install alert towers, this is at a cost of 10.9 million USD. We attempt to provide low cost early warning solutions. Some as cheap as 15 USD. That is 2490 USD as against 10.9 million USD. The strategy is to integrate solutions to quotidian development infrastructure for comprehensive last mile connectivity.

Integrating Early Waring Solutions to quotidian development infrastructures will provide low cost options for real time dissemination.

Project description

What problem are you trying to solve?
In India, disaster casualties have been consistently high inspite of Its robust early warning structures. Between 1986 and 2008 India relayed 145349 flood forecasts with 95.35 percent of accuracy. During the same period at least 34674 human casualties were reported in floods. Most recently, in 2017 floods 943 people died in India. The evolution of systems for dissemination of early warning to the local communities has not kept pace with the development of forecast technologies. The ‘last mile’ connectivity to the community at risk still depends upon manual systems. Although states like Odisha has recently installed tsunami alert towers in 166 locations, this is grossly inadequate to reach out to all people at risks. Cost of these towers makes 100% outreach difficult. It is therefore imperative to look for low-cost solutions to reach to all people at risks and prevent human casualties and loss of assets.

What is your solution to this problem?
Improving real time dissemination by integrating EW system into the Pre-existing infrastructures and home appliances. This makes the solution affordable and widespread outreach possible. We offer a combination of innovative solutions:

  • Lifeboxes works on an idea of converting TV set top boxes into siren alerts. TV set top boxes mostly run on tower and satellite based networks & therefore it is possible to track and control these devises from a central control room and warn people at risk.
  • Lifetower converts street lights into warning systems by fitting water sensors at the danger level for inundation. As soon as the sensor detects inundation, it activates the alarm system and disseminates warning through siren & SMS. It also activates network of lifetowers to warn downstream community.
  • VNMS is a decision support system to control lifetowers and lifeboxes. It is also designed for last mile coordination and provides access to critical information on development schemes.

What is your latest update on your innovation?
The VNMS is successfully piloted in costal Odisha in 2016-17. It has an indirect outreach of nearly 34398 households and 173399 people from 171 villages in three river basins in Odisha. The initiative recently got featured in “Defying Climate Change – Putting Women and Children first.” The book is a compilation of best practices documented by UNICEF and CANSA. At the individual level, the team has proven capacities to conceptualise ideas around early warning and leverage resources through UN-OCHA Humanitarian Research and Innovation Grant to develop Lifetowers. Certain components of the proposed ideas have received awards at MIT’s climatecolab platform in 2017. Lifeboxes is at the inception stage. Oxfam India is also collectively trying to create a regional platform, ‘South Asia Regional Collaboration for Early Warning” to advocate for effective end to end early warning in the region.


Animesh Prakash


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