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High water and a baptism of fire

Though scientists can do little to prevent flooding, they can do a great deal to prepare optimum up-to-date information from disaster areas for crisis intervention teams. Systems such as MobiKat facilitate the work of the relief units.

In many parts of Germany, rivers repeatedly overflow their banks as a result of heavy rainfall. Particularly in Saxony, people still have vivid memories of the disastrous flooding in August 2002. Since then they have constantly kept a watchful eye on the river Elbe – helped since 2006 by MobiKat, a project run by the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI in Dresden and the administration of Saxonian Switzerland. The purpose of the system is to monitor the development of crisis situations regardless of local or national borders, and to assure mobility in disaster areas. “We only embarked on this project a couple of months ago. When a state of emergency was declared along the Elbe at short notice, we were already able to deploy several elements of the system to minimize the damage caused by flooding,” reports MobiKat project manager Dr. Kamen Danowski. With great success, confirms the District Office in Pirna: Within an extremely short time, an IVI project team installed mobile cameras at strategic points to monitor the water level and the progress of flooding. Live images were transmitted to the crisis intervention team by radio at the rate of one a minute. The IT system also provided data on the infrastructure and delivered valuable information about key buildings in the disaster area such as schools, hospitals and child daycare facilities. From all these data, the software created digital status maps and forecast charts that could be rapidly and clearly projected onto a screen at the crisis center and printed out for the relief units in the field. This enabled the administration of Saxonian Switzerland to make vital decisions about evacuations and traffic control. “Our MobiKat components were constantly in action during the flood disaster. They functioned correctly and without failure even though they were still at an early stage of development,” Danowski points out. The lessons learned on this mission will be turned to good use in the further development of MobiKat. As well as providing assistance during and after crisis situations, the system will in future help to plan the appropriate preventive measures before a disaster occurs.

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