Early warning, early action

Early action, also known as anticipatory action or forecast-based action, means taking steps to protect people before a disaster strikes based on early warning or forecasts. To be effective, it must involve meaningful engagement with at-risk communities. Discover how the IFRC supports effective early warning and early action by Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Community early warning systems

Members of a Village Disaster Protection Unit in Khammouane Province, Laos inspect a flood line metre during a disaster simulation testing their preparedness

Members of a Village Disaster Protection Unit in Khammouane Province, Laos inspect a flood line metre during a disaster simulation testing their preparedness

Photo: IFRC/Bart Verweij

Emergency alerts issued by national authorities don’t always reach everyone at risk. We’re supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers to actively monitor and issue timely alerts about risks to their local communities. By doing so, they can ensure even hard-to-reach communities are informed and prepared before a disaster strikes.

We have produced guiding principles and a training toolkit for National Societies and non-governmental organizations to create new, or improve existing, community early warning systems in their countries. National Societies can also access additional resources on Fednet.

Anticipatory action

Ukrainian Red Cross Society volunteers take part in a crisis simulation exercise to help build the skills the volunteers will likely need in the months to come.

Ukrainian Red Cross Society volunteers take part in a crisis simulation exercise to help build the skills the volunteers will likely need in the months to come.

Photo: IFRC/Stephen Ryan

Anticipatory action refers to actions we can take before a predicted hazard hits to prevent or reduce its potential impacts. Examples of these actions include early evacuation, reinforcing homes, distributing health protection kits, setting up mobile cooling centres and distributing cash.

Read our anticipatory action brochure for an introduction to what anticipatory action is, how it works and why it's important. Learn about different examples of anticipatory action here and read our Operational Framework for Anticipatory Action 2021-2025 to see how we plan to scale up this work across our network in the coming years.

You can also visit the Anticipation Hub website: our one-stop-shop for sharing knowledge, technical support and learning about anticipatory action.

Watch: What is anticipatory action?

Forecast-based financing

A volunteer from the Mongolia Red Cross hands a box of food and relief items to a family in Khuvzgul province to prepare for the upcoming extreme winter season

A volunteer from the Mongolia Red Cross hands a box of food and relief items to a family in Khuvzgul province to prepare for the upcoming extreme winter season

Photo: IFRC/Mirva Helenius

Forecast-based financing is a way of getting humanitarian funding to communities before a disaster strikes. It uses weather forecasts and risk analysis to activate the release of funding ahead of extreme weather events. The overall goal is to prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters and reduce human suffering.

The IFRC has pioneered and improved our forecast-based financing approach since 2014. Visit our dedicated website on forecast-based financing for more information and resources.

And in 2018 we launched Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, now known as the Anticipatory Pillar—our dedicated funding mechanism that helps National Societies take early action before disasters strike.

Watch: What is forecast-based financing?

Risk-informed Early Action Partnership

Philippine Red Cross Volunteers Nomalyn and Rene stand outside a house damaged by Typhoon Goni in late 2020

Philippine Red Cross Volunteers Nomalyn and Rene stand outside a house damaged by Typhoon Goni in late 2020

Photo: IFRC

Hosted by the IFRC, the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) aims to make one billion people safer from disasters by 2025 by:

  • Increasing funding for early action
  • Improving early warning systems
  • Improving the ability of local responders to take early action

Find out more on the REAP website

WhatNow

A Philippine Red Cross volunteer uses a megaphone to share safety messages with people in her community on Panay island when Typhoon Haiyan hit the country in 2013

A Philippine Red Cross volunteer uses a megaphone to share safety messages with people in her community on Panay island when Typhoon Haiyan hit the country in 2013

Photo: Finnish Red Cross/Jarkko Mikkonen

Our WhatNow service enables National Societies to adapt our Public Awareness and Public Education (PAPE) for disaster risk reduction key messages to their local risks, languages and contexts.

They can then upload them to a global portal to enable partners—such as Google or regional, national and local media companies—to broadcast them alongside hazard alerts.

Find out more on the WhatNow service website.

Watch: WhatNow service

Alert Hub

A man listens to a Red Cross broadcast on a cranking radio donated by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society.

A man listens to a Red Cross broadcast on a cranking radio donated by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society.

Photo: IFRC

We are currently developing the IFRC Alert Hub, a free online source that brings together published emergency alerts from national, regional and local alerting authorities.

The platform will be unique in its focus on multi-hazard emergency alerts (from national to local levels) which are free to use and centralized in one place, bringing us one step closer to ensuring that emergency alerts reach everyone at risk. 

We will also work to integrate public messages about how to prepare and reduce risks in tandem with government alerts.