New Media as an Early Warning System for Extreme Weather Events
Introduction The last fifteen years in Poland featured an intense meteorological and hydrological activity. At that time, Poland was hit three times by flooding which affected more than half of the country. The floods resulted in loss of lives and the damage amounted to several billion dollars. At present, Poland is still recovering from flood damage and is in the process of establishing new flood protection systems. However, flood is not the only weather event of concern to the Poles. Therefore, more frequent extreme changes in weather patterns such as: storms, high temperatures, drought and on the other hand blizzards and severe frost need to take appropriate action. After the Millennium Flood of 1997 the Polish Met-Service has established one of the most advanced systems for monitoring and forecasting of weather events. However, lessons learnt from the period of 2010-2012 have shown that measuring equipment and forecasts alone are not sufficient to effectively warn the society against extreme weather events. It was noticed that communication is an important tool for achieving goals and effectively reaching the public. Taking this into account, IMGW-PIB began works on developing an adequate communication system against hazardous events. A system, which would disseminate easy to understand warnings which are tailored to the needs of the recipients, i.e. personalized weather forecast. Timeliness and response are of great importance during crisis situations. A replacement of traditional techniques with new media allowed to improve the communication forms. This is because the rise of new media has impacted a range and speed of data dissemination; and consequently it had an impact on weather warnings.
Background Due to continuous development of technology and easy access to new devices new demands of the society have emerged. This tendency is guided by the need to obtain specific information quickly and without having to search for it. Such phenomenon is currently being observed on the example of the widespread criticism of television. Nowadays, the multi-thematic stations are being displaced by mono-thematic stations, which on the other hand are being replaced by smart TV technologies that enable integration of the Internet features or even video on demand (VOD). One of the reasons of changes that we witness is reflected by the specific preferences of people which cannot be satisfied by traditional media. The reason for this, among others, is that the content provided by multi-thematic media is too extensive, too general and dedicated to thousands or even millions of recipients. People expect that the sought information is received quickly and there is no problem in its understanding. Case study The Polish Met-Service (IMGW-PIB) is actively working on the development of the most effective communication mechanism to disseminate weather information, including, above all - warnings against extreme hydro-meteorological events. To this end IMGW-PIB the latest tools and in particular new media and new technologies (mobile phones, mobile apps and Internet) are used. As a result, the Poles receive weather information they need. For example, if they are interested in river water level flowing by their house they can receive such information on their mobile phone. Works on the system development were initiated by measuring public awareness of dangerous weather events and subsequently by verifying lacks in communicating such information to the public and decision-makers responsible for the emergency management. The study identified the needs which are: terminology, form and content of the messages that need to be comprehensible to the public. Your personalized weather It would seem that a weather forecast is ordinary and that nothing new can be added because it is always the same. Nothing could be further from the truth, because following the development of the Internet, modern mobile devices and weather apps, a customization of weather products was introduced. Weather is no longer only one topic; it is an issue that concerns everyone equally and thus - individually. Each and everyone is looking for different information - residents of flood prone areas will focus on hydrological forecasts while the U.S. citizens living in Tornado Alleys will be interested in thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Therefore, IMGW-PIB is making its way towards personalization of products which are being more often adjusted to the specific needs of the recipients. Such form of customization is pursued in order to accelerate and facilitate access to weather information and to improve and systematize the messages with specific and clear information.
Summary As a part of IMGW-PIB activities an effective warning system against hydro-meteorological events was established which delivers dedicated weather information to specific users, i.e. according to the user's location and needs. As a result, a different message will be provided to sailors, drivers or farmers - currently, there are 74 warning areas around the country. IMGW-PIB operates an integrated system platform of text messaging and mobile apps to warn the society. While people are in motion, the mobile apps track their position and store information in the central database. Such data is used to send alerts to users who are located in the affected areas. Thanks to the new system each citizen is able to choose a type of forecast or warning, area and also other vast range of information. This allows to take precautionary measures against the impending threats. The Institute makes every effort to ensure that its activities will mitigate the impacts of hazardous weather events which occurrence is impossible to prevent. At the same time, IMGW-PIB is fully aware of the scale and aftermath of such phenomena. Therefore, its goal is to continually improve its services in terms of quality, technology and availability of the weather products.