ELLA Policy Brief: Rio de Janeiro City’s Early Warning System for Heavy Rain


Cities such as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, that are highly vulnerable to rain-induced disasters due to inappropriate land-use on a massive scale, can greatly reduce risks with timely employment of early warning systems (EWS). After a rain-induced disaster in the city in April 2010, the City Council together with the Civil Defence, responsible for coordinating the efforts of all emergency services, invested in technology and integrated resources to build capacity throughout the chain of response right down to the community level. This Brief explores the success of Rio’s EWS in terms of its strategies to improve risk knowledge, monitoring and warning, dissemination and communication, and response capability, and in doing so, identifies key enabling factors and lessons for other cities interested in implementing their own systems.

Key Lessons:

Coordinated action of all public agencies under one umbrella organisation can improve monitoring, warning and response capacity.

Community involvement in the design and implementation of any EWS is essential and engaging the help of respected community workers and leaders can greatly facilitate this process.

Investments in monitoring technology are fundamental to improving the accuracy of risk mapping, thereby allowing more lead-time to provide warnings.

A range of low-cost, effective methods are available for raising awareness amongst local populations.


Heffer, C. O. ELLA Policy Brief: Rio de Janeiro City’s Early Warning System for Heavy Rain. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 7 pp.

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