THE recent installation of a nationwide early warning system (EWS) is playing a vital role in enhancing people’s preparedness for natural disasters.

The EWS1294 mobile app, developed by the People in Need (PIN) – a Czech NGO – and now managed by the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), aims to prevent and mitigate damage caused by such phenomena.

Fa Ah Sina, a resident of Dam Spei village in Sla Ket commune in Battambang town and province, shares her experience with the project. 

Living along the Sangke River, she faces annual flood risks, including occasional sharp rises in water levels that make timely evacuation for her family difficult. 

Since the establishment of the warning system, she and her fellow villagers now receive information well in advance, improving their preparedness.

“The EWS has really helped everyone in my village during storms and floods. Alongside phone alerts, a loudspeaker notifies all residents, allowing us to quickly escape potential dangers,” she shares.

Commune chief Tout Roeurn says a total of 371 households residing near the river are vulnerable to floods. 

In Battambang town, EWS1294 are in place in four communes to enusre the public’s readiness to take action.
He highlights that the system efficiently utilises modern digital technology via the app. In case of an imminent threat, it transmits alerts to mobile phones, keeping individuals well-informed. 

To reach local villagers, loudspeakers cover a 500sqm area. For larger distances, commune authorities deploy additional loudspeakers strategically to ensure effective information dissemination.

Immediate notifications

Roeurn shares that before the mobile app, he relied upon updates from the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. 

Personally delivering information on a motorbike or three-wheel remorque, he urged riverbank residents to stay prepared.

Now, through the Ministry of Environment’s integrated EWS, in collaboration with PIN, local residents receive immediate notifications.

“When they sense a threat coming, they take proactive measures in advance. Also, the Battambang provincial water resource department provides flood information. The importance of the system ... lies in its ability to keep people well-prepared beforehand,” he explains.

He shares that local authorities have explained the benefits of the system to the community. 

The mechanism can alert for various emergencies like heavy rain, cold weather, thunderstorms and rainstorms.

Heng Bunmanut, project manager for the initiative, shares that PIN has placed early alert system sensors in 41 locations across the country.

Currently, the network boasts about 190,000 registered users and has issued 331 disaster-related reports. He adds that over 1.1 million people have benefited from the alerts.

He explains that the system evaluates received information, particularly in areas with installed river water level gauges.

If potential issues were identified, the provincial disaster management committee would make announcements through four methods: system-generated voice calls to registered users’ phone numbers; dissemination through a dedicated Telegram group open for anyone to join; broadcasting on the popular ABC radio show; and, in Battambang, alerts conveyed through a network of loudspeakers.

Resident registration

Typically, affected areas cover all provinces, with the most vulnerable regions identified in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces.

“During the installation of the ... system, we ask residents to register with the network. When calling 1294, they are prompted to choose their province, district and commune, enabling individuals to register in their respective communities,” Bunmanut says.

“If someone resides in, say, commune A but wishes to register in commune B as well, they are also allowed to do so,” he adds.

Khlok Vichetratha, deputy director of the environment ministry’s climate change department, noted the government’s commitment to addressing the issue during a recent visit to inspect the warning system in Sla Ket commune.

She says that climate change adaptation is a key government priority, aligning with the significant task of building resilience for local communities.

She explains that the ministry, overseeing the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA) programme, allocated funds to PIN and collaborated with the Battambang Provincial Administration to implement project priority activities.

“Being informed in advance allows everyone to be well-prepared and respond effectively during flooding events. In Battambang province, the CCCA was the first to introduce loudspeakers. This achievement of the project enhances people’s awareness of weather conditions, enabling proactive measures,” Vichetratha says.

NCDM spokesperson Soth Kim Kolmony tells The Post that the EWS1294 has been in place for 10 years, with PIN as an indispensable partner.

He shares that the system operated solely in Pursat province initially, but has now expanded to cover the entire country.

In the beginning, only voice messages were available, but now additional functions, including regular updates on social media and instant messaging platforms like Facebook and Telegram, have been introduced.

“EWS1294 was created to keep people informed about potential weather phenomena, enabling them to be prepared. Those who register with 1294 can receive messages about potential disaster situations in their area,” he says.