Earthquakes are not the only natural hazard that Switzerland needs to really focus on. The country's topography and geography mean that it is prone to a variety of major natural hazards. The public must be warned in good time of storms sweeping across Switzerland, forest fires, or avalanches thundering down mountain slopes. They must also receive alerts about earthquakes as quickly as possible. Notifying the public of these events is the task of the federal agencies responsible for monitoring natural hazards. They provide up-to-date information on such hazards via the Natural Hazards Portal at www.natural-hazards.ch. These agencies have made various adjustments and improvements to this site to create a new-look portal, which is now being released.
Time and again, Switzerland is faced with natural events that have the potential to endanger human life and infrastructure. In light of this, the federal agencies responsible for monitoring natural hazards have joined forces to ensure that the public is adequately informed, warned and protected in such critical situations. They publish warnings about storms, heavy precipitation and snowfall, slippery roads, ground frost, heat waves, thunderstorms, forest fires, floods and avalanches, and issue alerts regarding current earthquakes.
The agencies jointly operate the Natural Hazards Portal with the aim of reaching as many people as possible when a natural event occurs and providing them with standardised information. Furthermore, they publish all warnings and alerts about natural hazards on this website and also issue these warnings and alerts through the MeteoSwiss app. As a result, reliable and consolidated information on current natural hazards situations and events is available to the public.
Following a revamp, a new-look Natural Hazards Portal is now being released. The updated portal features adjustments to how hazards are shown and illustrations depicting recommended behaviours. For example, rivers and lakes of national interest are now colour-coded based on their warning status, making this easier to see, while forest-fire risk is now shown along cantonal borders, with pictograms on key recommended behaviours making this information more user-friendly.
The federal agencies responsible for monitoring natural hazards firmly believe that these adjustments will help the Swiss public to locate the relevant information more easily and understand it more readily, both before and during natural hazards events.
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at ETH Zurich and the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) are officially mandated by the federal government to provide information and issue warnings to the public, the media and the authorities about impending natural hazards. In critical situations, the natural hazard agencies work particularly closely together, coordinating their forecasts and warnings and compiling joint press releases and bulletins about natural hazards.
You can find further information at www.natural-hazards.ch.
This text was adapted, with permission, from a MeteoSwiss blog entry (German).