From September 30, 2022, the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) will be adopting the national Australian Warning System (AWS) for all future flood and tsunami warnings. As this is a big change, we're going to give you an explainer on what the AWS is and how to interpret it.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.


What is the Australian Warning System?

The Australian Warning System (AWS) is a nationally consistent, three-tiered approach designed to make warnings clearer and lead people to take action ahead of severe weather events and emergencies, such as bushfires, floods, storms, extreme heat and severe weather.

The AWS comprises warning levels, action statements, hazard icons, colours and shapes.

Up until now, different warning systems for different hazard types were used across Australia. The AWS aims to streamline everything and provide consistent warnings so that there's clearer communication and lower risk of any confusion.

Explaining the Australian Warning System

There are three levels within the AWS: Advice, Watch and Act, and Emergency Warning. Each level has a clear set of action statements and instructions:

  • Advice - An incident has started. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.

    • Stay informed

    • Monitor conditions

    • Reduced threat: return with caution

  • Watch and Act - Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.

    • Do not enter floodwater

    • Prepare to evacuate

    • Prepare to isolate

    • Avoid the area

  • Emergency Warning - The highest level of warning. You may be in danger and need to take action immediately.

    • Evacuate now / Evacuate before [time]

    • Shelter now

    • Move to higher ground

For each level, there are three components:

  • Location + Hazard - The location and the type of hazard impacting the community.

  • Action statement - For each warning level, there are a range of action statements to guide protective action by the community. These statements evolve as the warning levels increase in severity. Statements range from ‘stay informed’ at the Advice level, to ‘prepare to evacuate’ at the Watch and Act level, to ‘evacuate now’ in the Emergency Warning level. As the situation changes and the threat is reduced, the level of warning will decrease accordingly.

  • The warning level - The severity of the natural hazard event based on the consequence to the community.

Related reading:


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Australian Warning System, NSW SES #1, NSW SES #2, and Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience

Image credit: NSW SES at Facebook

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Did this answer your question?