The homepage of the HEWS website showing a cluster of red pins over Japan. Each pin represents a seismic report which flowed onto the site.
WFP has launched a completely revamped specialist website – the Humanitarian Early Warning Service – providing up-to-the-minute information on natural hazards around the world. As world attention focused on earthquake-stricken Japan in recent days, thousands of users downloaded maps and consulted quake reports.
ROME -- WFP has launched a completely revamped Humanitarian Early Warning Service (HEWS), providing a one-stop-shop with up-to-the-minute information on natural hazards around the world. As world attention focused on Japan’s earthquake and tsunami last Friday, hundreds of users downloaded maps and consulted relevant information.
So far, more than 260 institutions and news organizations have linked the platform -- www.hewsweb.org -- onto their websites, including The Washington Post, CBS News and several UN agencies. HEWS has also registered more than 2,000 map downloads to date.
The redesigned platform, which anyone can consult, collects and displays critical information from a range of high quality sources, including seismic data from the US Geological Survey. It was was launched last week after an extensive overhaul.
"It's come just in time," says Amy Horton, head of WFP's Emergency Preparedness division. "People are downloading maps, consulting reports and clicking on news links.” A dedicated tsunami page is currently being constructed in collaboration with the EU's Joint Research Centre, she added.
Hewsweb carries a range of detailed maps from emergency and disaster zones. Right now, there are detailed seismic maps of the Japan earthquake and of the provinces of the Philippines that have been placed on tsunami alert.
The new HEWS’s strength is not only its hi-tech delivery but the quality of its sources and expert partners. For example, the Famine Early Warning System monitors drought and the Food and Agriculture Organization watches locusts.
For rainfall and flooding, HEWS brings together the formidable resources of NASA, the Dartmouth Flood Observatory in the United States and the academic research institute ITHACA from the influential Polytechnic of Turin, in Italy. These and other leaders in their fields refresh the information in their systems every fifteen minutes, which means that HEWS is extremely current.
WFP developed HEWS, which was originally set up in 2004, on behalf of all the members of an expert group known as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Sub-Working Group on Preparedness.
HEWS has been redesigned with user friendliness a top priority. It's fast and easy to find what you want. The site will continue to develop in the months to come. Some services, such as WFP's own Seasonal and Hazard Calendar, will become interactive, with users able to specify exactly which hazards and which regions they are interested in.
Users will be able to overlay several hazards – such as flooding and rainfall forecasts - onto a single homepage map to create their own scenario and preparedness plans. Or they can input the longitude and latitude of where they are to monitor any hazards around them within the vicinity of their choice.
By signing up for tweets at twitter.com/hewsweb, users can get key nformation sent straight to the their phone or laptop.