AEWS - Accident Emergency Warning System

The Accident Emergency Warning System (AEWS) is activated whenever there is a risk of transboundary water pollution, or threshold danger levels of hazardous substances are exceeded. The AEWS sends out international warning messages to countries downstream. This helps the authorities to put environmental protection and public safety measures into action.

The system underwent a major test in 2000, during the Baia Mare and Baia Borsa spill accidents on the Tisa River. The system effectively enabled the timely activation of measures that prevented more extensive damage to people and ecosystems downstream along the Tisa River.

The AEWS operates on a network of Principal International Alert Centres in each of the participating countries. These centres are made up of three basic units:

  • Communication Unit (operating 24 hours a day), which sends and receives warning messages
  • Expert Unit, which evaluates the possible transboundary impact of any accident using the database of dangerous substances and the Danube Basin Alarm Model
  • Decision Unit, which decides when international warnings are to be sent

The first stage of the AEWS came into operation in April 1997 in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Ukraine and Moldova entered the system in 1999; and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia are on board since 2005.

An essential improvement of AEWS was carried out in 2003/2004 with support of the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project. The goal of this upgrade was to increase the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the warning system by replacing the satellite communication with an internet-based information system using GSM/SMS messages for alerting the PIAC staff. A test performed in June 2004 has proven that the system works as expected. Consequently, the AEWS was upgraded to an internet-based information system.

Between May 1997 and September 2003, the system registered 35 accidents. Almost half the incidents involved oil pollution, and in 12 cases the origins of the pollution were identified.



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