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Responding rapidly and efficiently to disasters

A rapid, well-organized response is extremely important when dealing with catastrophic events. The ERMA crisis management platform provides support to government agencies and rescue organizations in an emergency. It gathers together vital information.

Floods, mudslides, accidents involving dangerous chemicals – it’s difficult to assess a situation clearly when disaster strikes. Where are people most acutely at risk? How many rescue workers are available? What is the best way to coordinate their deployment? What is the fastest way of alerting and informing the local population? Are there enough ambulances and hospital beds? What crisis managers need most of all is a full overview of the situation. But when everything is urgent, it is not easy to stay calm and objective, pull together the necessary information, and use it efficiently to take the right decisions. The Electronic Risk Management Architecture (ERMA) platform helps emergency teams and the coordinating organizations to work together more efficiently. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT in St. Augustin are involved in this EU project. They have developed vital components for ERMA that enable crises to be managed in a professional manner. “Networks made up of various types of sensor measure defined parameters and forward the data instantaneously,” explains Professor Thomas Rose, head of process management research at the FIT. “If there is an accident involving dangerous chemicals, the sensors can determine the level of environmental pollution in the air or water,” he adds. A special system of indicators based on complex algorithms evaluates the data and offers the necessary decision-making support. ERMA automatically forwards all essential information to relief workers in the field and other parties concerned. The platform also enables the population to be informed promptly and efficiently. Instructions on how to act in an emergency can be downloaded from the Internet. Alternatively, text messages can be sent out over the cell phone network to warn the public and advise them how to protect themselves against potential risks. Experts call this “Citizen Relationship Management”. ERMA also features a hotline allowing eye-witnesses to send in relevant information such as the location of impassable roads or collapsed bridges. This information is evaluated automatically. ERMA is primarily intended for medium-sized municipalities or organizations, a category that includes port authorities, airport administrations, and smaller towns frequently threatened by natural disasters. Demonstrations of the process management components of the system and the associated digital assistant for emergency medical services, OLGA, will be staged at CeBIT in Hanover from March 4 to 9 (Hall 9, Stand B36).

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