An online platform developed by EU-funded researchers is helping emergency services, public authorities and communities to better prepare for and cope with disasters, potentially saving lives and protecting key infrastructure.
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Large-scale and crossborder disasters and crises are infrequent and can often catch emergency services and communities by surprise. They are complex and can lead to secondary and potentially more devastating disasters.
For example, the tsunami that hit Japan was already a disaster, but a second disaster followed when the Fukushima nuclear plant was destroyed. Preparing for and responding to such disasters requires a broad range of actors with different responsibilities to work together.
To help emergency services, public authorities and communities potentially vulnerable to terrorism or natural hazards such as floods, epidemics and earthquakes, the EU-funded project TACTIC has created an online platform. The platform can help users understand the risks and engage them in preparedness actions to reduce the risks.
The prototype platform contains self-assessment forms for both organisations responsible for the security of citizens and emergency management, and for the general public exposed to various risks. It also provides support to help organisations develop a risk communication strategy.
Organisations involved in disaster risk management often dont know what impact their risk communications have on the public. This is where the project comes into play, says project coordinator Christian Kuhlicke of Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung in Germany. The platform helps them to identify their goals and to work out the right way to communicate the risks.
The platform also contains feedback reports and a comprehensive library of good practices or interesting examples in risk communication from across Europe.
Platform already beneficial
TACTIC worked with over 200 organisations from across Europe active in disaster risk management. The project used four case studies to reflect the four different types of potential disasters within the projects scope.
The platform is currently in a prototype form and needs to be developed further but has already proven successful. In one case study, it was tested with the District of Bautzen in Germany, where inhabitants face an increasing risk of flooding. The district produced brochures and to assess whether they were reaching the public with the information provided on risks.
The platform was advertised in local newspapers. As a result, around 100 people filled out self-assessment forms, answering questions such as how prepared they feel to cope with a flood, what information they already receive, and what information they would like to receive.
The platform showed participants that the way to go was to use more online social media and web-based applications than they had done before, says Kuhlicke.
The platform provides organisations with an automatically generated feedback report that outlines, based on their answers to the assessment, their strengths and areas that could be improved. This self-assessment form takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Another self-assessment form gives individuals the chance to evaluate their own preparedness for particular risks and includes a short report based on their answers and selected links to useful websites offering knowledge and training options.
The assessments are provided in English, Turkish, Polish and German. Kuhlicke says the project partners are seeking funding to further develop the platform.