DRH-Asia: Disaster Reduction Hyperbase
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1. Title

Effective Cyclone Early Warning Dissemination at Community Level

ID: DRH 19
Hazard: Cyclone/Typhoon , Storm surge

Process Technology (PT)

Proposer: Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Date posted: 07 February 2008
Date published: 29 September 2010
Copyright © 2010 Muhammad Saidur Rahman (proposer). All rights reserved.


Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Director, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC)
House 15A, Road 8, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Telephone: + 88 (02) 9862169, +88 (02) 9880573, +88 (02) 8819718
Mobile: +88 (02) 1711524722
Fax: +88 (02) 8819718
E-mail: saidur1943@gmail.com and saidur@bdpc.org.bd

2. Major significance / Summary

Cyclone is the natural hazard which causes huge loss of lives and properties in Bangladesh. Since cyclones can not be prevented, the most cost-effective way to minimize the loss is to put in place an effective and sustainable early warning dissemination system at family and community level.

3. Keywords

cyclone, early warning, volunteerism, community

II. Categories

4. Focus of this information

Process Technology (PT)

5. Users

5-1. Anticipated users: Community leaders (voluntary base) , Administrative officers , National governments and other intermediate government bodies (state, prefecture, district, etc.) , Teachers and educators

5-2. Other users: Policy makers , Local residents

6. Hazards focused

Cyclone/Typhoon , Storm surge

7. Elements at risk

Human lives , Business and livelihoods , Infrastructure , Rural areas , Coastal areas , Agricultural lands

III. Contact Information

8. Proposer(s) information (Writer of this template)

Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Director, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC)
House 15A, Road 8, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Telephone: + 88 (02) 9862169, +88 (02) 9880573, +88 (02) 8819718
Mobile: +88 (02) 1711524722
Fax: +88 (02) 8819718
E-mail: saidur1943@gmail.com and saidur@bdpc.org.bd

9. Country(ies)/region(s) where the technology/knowledge/practice originated


10. Names and institutions of technology/knowledge developers

Mr. Claes Hagstroem
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

11. Title of relevant projects if any

This concept and practice of early warning dissemination through community volunteer is being tested in flood prone areas of Bangladesh.

12. References and publications

13. Note on ownership if any

IV. Background

14. Disaster events and/or societal circumstances, which became the driving force either for developing the technology/knowledge or enhancing its practice


Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, the main cause of which could be attributed to it's geographical location. The impact of disaster is quite high because of inadequate physical infrastructures and poor socio-economic condition of the people of this country. 

 Floods and cyclones are the major disasters, of which the later cause severe destruction to lives and properties. The cyclone of 12 November 1970, the worst in the recorded history in the world, killed over 500,000 people in just one night. The reason for this colossal loss of human lives was the failure on the part of the public authorities to disseminate early warning to the people at risk.   

Immediately after the devastating cyclone, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, responding to a resolution taken in the United Nations General Assembly, took the initiative to set up a program for dissemination of early warning at family and community level against approaching cyclone. Today, this is the widely acclaimed Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) of Bangladesh.


V. Description

15. Feature and attribute


Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) is the organization of volunteers in the truest sense of term. The volunteers are recruited under a set of criteria which includes the minimum age of 18, ability to read and write the national language (Bengali) etc. They are dedicated and committed. In fact, they come to CPP with the sprit of service to the people living in the areas vulnerable to cyclone. They don’t receive any remuneration for the services they provide.  Today CPP has the strength of over 49,000 volunteers, spread over 3280 Units/villages in the entire coastal belt and offshore islands of Bangladesh.

The primary aim of the CPP is to minimize the loss of lives and properties in the cyclonic disasters by strengthening the capacity of the people of the coastal belt  to reduce the risk and cope with disaster. The volunteers have the following specific responsibilities, and are trained in the relevant disciplines:  

  •  Dissemination of early warning
  •  Evacuation to safe havens and shelter management
  •  Conduction of rescue operation
  • Provision of first aid to the injured
  • Assistance for post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation operations 

The primary and the basic responsibility of the volunteers is to disseminate the early warning to over ten million people living in the coastal belt and offshore islands. The Storm Warning Center of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department informs the Headquarters (HQ) of CPP, located in capital city of Dhaka, as soon as a depression is formed in the Bay of Bengal. The later (CPP HQ) immediately transmits the message to their zonal and sub-district offices through single-side-band radio. In turn, the message is passed on to the unit team leaders in the villages via the Union Team Leaders through VHF radio and/or volunteer messengers.  

There is a time gap of at least four days between the formation of a depression in the Bay of Bengal, its turning into severe cyclone and crossing over the coast. Since the time of the first information of formation of depression is received at the village level, the volunteers keep on watching the movement of the depression through the weather bulletins broadcast by national radio and disseminate the information to the people at threat through various means. These include hoisting of warning flags in pre-selected public places (eg. educational institutions, mosques, market places, big boats, etc), announcement by megaphones and other public address systems, blowing of sirens, interpersonal communication through door to door visits, etc.


Fig. 1: Volunteer Trainning


Fig. 2: Signal Flag


Fig. 3: Warning Dissemination

A flowchart showing the process of dissemination of early warning from the Headquarters of CPP down to family and community level is presented below:



When the great danger signals are announced by the Meteorological Department, people are encouraged to evacuate to shelters. The vulnerable groups (eg. the disabled children, elderly, pregnant) are assisted by the volunteers of CPP in their process of evacuation. They conduct rescue operations during the height of cyclones.  Cyclone being a sudden-onset and high impact disaster, causes a lot of physical  injuries. As such, immediately after the cyclone has struck, professionally trained volunteers of CPP provide first aid to the persons in need.  Finally, CPP volunteers provide cooperation, support and assistance to the Government, National Red Crescent Society and the private sectors engaged in emergency relief and rehabilitation operations. The voluntary nature of the organization and the sprit of the volunteers contribute greatly not only to the quality of services they provide but also the sustainability of the organization. The volunteers performed very well in the last super cyclone “Sidr”. They are so committed that 26 of them lost their lives while trying to save others during the cyclone of 1991, which killed 138,000 people.

In early 70’s, after the devastating cyclone of 1970 and the brutal war of liberation in 1971, the IFRCS started a number of projects. Only CPP is still surviving for the last 38 years because of the voluntary nature of the organization and commitment of the volunteers.



16. Necessary process to implement


There is a very well-defined and elaborate arrangement for implementation of CPP. In each Unit (composed of one or more than one villages) there is a team of 15 volunteers, including five women, and headed by a Unit Team Leader, democratically elected by the volunteers. On an average ten units would form an Union, the lowest level of local government institutions. The Union Volunteer Committee is formed with all the ten unit leaders and is headed by an elected Union Team Leader. In turn, the Upazila (sub-district) Volunteer Team, composed of all the Union Team Leaders, will have a democratically elected Upazila Team Leader. 

At the national level, CPP is managed by two committees (Policy Committee and Implementation Board), composed of representatives from both the Government and the National Red Crescent Society. The “Policy Committee”, responsible for giving policy directions and mobilization of resources, is headed by the Minister-in-charge of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management. The management of CPP is overseen and monitored by the “Implementation Board”, which is headed by the Secretary (highest ranking civil servant) of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management. 

CPP is an organization of volunteers with Red Cross in nature (using  it's emblem and imbibed with it’s spirit) with one hundred percent of its recurring cost coming from the Government of Bangladesh. IFRCS and other funding agencies provide resources for transports, warning and telecommunication equipments, training of volunteers etc., as when needed.


17. Strength and limitations

Strengths: The following are the strengths of CPP 

  1. Volunteers organization
  2. Spirit, commitment and dedication of the volunteers
  3. Rooted in the community
  4. Use of the emblem of Red Cross (symbol of impartiality and neutrality) and the service-orientation of the organization
  5. Assured and sustained funding support from the Government
  6. Check and balance through the policy and management committees, constituted with the representatives form the Government and the Red Crescent Society.


  1. The officers in civil administration are transferred quite frequently from one Ministry/Department to another. As such, the Director of Administration of the Programs nominated from the Ministry of Disaster Management and the representatives from different Ministries who sit in the Policy Committee and the Implementation Board of the Program CPP can not have the sustained commitment for long time which is required for such a vital program.
  2. The performance of CPP is appreciated by all concerns, particularly during and after cyclonic disasters. Since the program was started by Red Cross and the volunteers use its emblem, quite often the National Red Crescent Society claims ownership of the Program, which is not always appreciated by the other stakeholder.
  3. The Policy Committee and the Implementation Board, responsible for framing policy and management of the Program respectively, are composed of representatives from the Government and the Red Crescent Society. Both the stakeholders have the tendency of controlling the management of the Program, which sometimes create confusion among the staff members and slows down the implementations of planned activities.
  4. Since the Government of Bangladesh pays all the costs related to running the Program, the accounts are maintained and audited under Government rules and systems. This leaves no space for flexibility which is required to run a Program like CPP.

18. Lessons learned through implementation if any

Lessons learned : The proposer of the project, being the first director of CPP in 1972, identifies the following challenges for replication of the project in other countries: 

  1. The process of planning and development of CPP during the years of its formation and growth, and also the ups and downs that CPP had during the last thirty five years, must be documented properly to learn both the enabling and the hindering lessons.
  2. The need of a Champion, with 100% commitment and dedication, and charismatic leadership, who would generate and sustain the commitment of service to tens at thousands of local poor people to act as volunteers for years. Another challenge is to maintain a team of officials who would develop professionalism among the community volunteers.
  3. The third challenge is to keep the volunteers engaged and involved in social and development activities or programs in their localities throughout the year so that they are able to respond professionally and efficiently in time of need.
  4. Systems should be developed in such a way that due recognition are given to the volunteers by all the concerns eg. the  community, private and public sectors.

VI. Resources required

19. Facilities and equipments required

Office set ups, communication equipments eg. single side band, VHF and transistor radios, warnings equipments, eg. flags, megaphones,  sirens etc. transports etc.

20. Costs, organization, manpower, etc.

At present, there is a strength of 146 full-time staff members. The recurring cost is over half a million US dollars per year.

VII. Message from the proposer if any

21. Message

Effective early warning, relavant to the local contexts and disseminated through volunteers trusted and respected by the communities at risk, contribute greatly in reducing the loss of lives and properties caused by any disaster. For sustainability of such warning disemination program, there is no other alternatives but to empower the community and develop their sense of ownership.

Cyclone Preparedness Program is a time-tested program. Initiating, participating or even supporting such program is a great opportunity to serve the distressed humanity, a MUST for people of all faiths and religions.

VIII. Self evaluation in relation to applicability

22. How do you evaluate the technology/knowledge that you have proposed?

It is a technology/knowledge that has fair applicability demonstrated by implementation in one or more field sites.

23. Notes on the applicability if any

The cyclone of 1970, which killed around half a million people, is the worst in the recorded history of the world. This devastating disaster was followed by the war of liberation in 1971 in which over three million people were killed. So, the National Red Cross Society had huge operations to alleviate the sufferings of the people affected by the natural and man-made disasters respectively. As such, the Red Cross had the resources and technical support from other national societies in the world, particularly the Japanese Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross, to initiate the Cyclone Preparedness Program.

IX. Application examples


    E1-1. Project name if available

    Cyclone Preparedness Program

    E1-2. Place


    E1-3. Year

    Since 1972

    E1-4. Investor

    E1-5. People involved

    The Community Volunteers, National Red Crescent Society and the Government

    E1-6. Monetary costs incurred

    E1-7. Total workload required

    E1-8. Evidence of positive result

    The organization has survived, grown and has successfully performed it's duties in several cyclones during the last 38 years. Effective dissemination of early warning at family and community levels contributed significantly in reducing the death toll in recent cyclones.

X. Other related parallel initiatives if any


XI. Remarks for version upgrade


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