Disasters, either from natural or industrial origins, have long harassed us. Though prevention is the key to limiting the effects of these events on population and property, the efficiency of the reaction to disasters can often be improved if the affected population can be warned before a disaster occurs: This is the ‘early warning’, which is the central concept to which the technologies proposed by CHORIST apply.
CHORIST is a research project active between 2006 and 2009, involving 17 partners from 8 European countries. It studied various technical solutions in the domain of early warning. The technical proposals are aimed at both saving lives and easing the work of the authorities in case of major natural or industrial disasters.
The 3 modules:
Tools developed in CHORIST aim at providing more information to authorities and to the population. Three modules were developed and tested in the frame of the project:
- Module 1 (Situation Awareness) provides an overall real-time picture of events with an assessment of the consequences on the population and on property. This information helps authorities to make decisions.
- Module 2 (Warning the population) allows authorities to warn the population quickly and through several media routes simultaneously.
- Module 3 (Rapidly deployable PMR systems) allows both field rescue and support teams in control rooms to get more information on the situation.
Module 1: Situation Awareness
Module 1 collects information from existing national or international agencies which monitor and forecast natural hazards (e.g. extreme weather, volcanoes, earthquakes), and from chemical and nuclear industrial areas. Information from dedicated sensor networks (like those monitoring river levels) can also be added, as well as alerts received from the population by emergency service call centres. This information is processed, and by means of simulators and database information, the current and forecasted impact on population and property is assessed.
The results are provided to the authorities by means of a Common Operational Picture (COP) enhanced with an alert level. The added-value consists of providing clear, concise and consolidated information from a variety of sources to authorities dealing with these incidents and their consequences.
Module 2: Warning the Population
A single tool, through a simple interface allows authorities to create and define warning message content, broadcast areas and time durations. A simple click on a button and the warning message can be received by potentially millions of citizens within minutes.
The warning messages give information on the incident and on the action which people should take (for example, to go inside, close windows etc.). The initial messages can also redirect people to other sources (TV, radio, web sites) from which to obtain further information and advice.
Within the scope of the project, tests with sirens, digital radio, digital TV and GSM (cell broadcast technology) were conducted, but many other channels could be used such as satellites, over-road gantry signs and web sites could be utilised. The added-value for authorities is to provide the mechanisms for timely, appropriate and efficient warning of the population. Decisions on message content whether or not transmit and to whom, will still require the application of professional judgement however. Overall, though, the population can be better warned and informed and lives can be expected to be saved as a result.
Module 3: Rapidly Deployable PMR Systems
Two complementary technologies are proposed for field rescue teams to exchange information with their control rooms. Both allow the rapid transfer of all the information needed for the emergency services to work more efficiently and effectively.
- The TETRA TEDS standard enhances the huge existing TETRA infrastructure and terminals used by millions of public safety end users, similar to what was the 2.5G revolution in the public mobile phone networks.
- Rapidly deployable broadband MESH systems incorporate the latest developments in ad-hoc networks. Terminals automatically connect together in a peer-to-peer structure, thus allowing the radio network to expand its coverage area as it grows in terminal numbers.
Cooperation with End Users
The most valuable activity with end-users consisted of setting-up a User Advisory Board (UAB): a committed group of Civil Protection (CP) professionals from various countries and fields of activities helped the CHORIST consortium to design their tools by providing them with feedback and advice. Considerable research has been carried out to understand long-term user requirements and demand for information. Feedback on the concepts of the project has been positive. Field tests conducted in Catalonia (Spain) indicated that, though the prototypes provided limited functionality, the concepts themselves were acceptable to professional users as adding value to their work.