These days, most people carry sophisticated communications devices with them at all times. Yet, during emergencies, when the need for communication is most critical, such citizen resources are barely utilised. The EU-funded 'Online and mobile communications for crisis response and search and rescue' (ISAR+) project set out to include citizens in emergency response. The 19-member consortium is utilising citizens' mobile devices for bi-directional flow of emergency response information, including search and rescue and medical assistance. The guidelines allow smooth integration of the mobile devices into existing emergency networks. ISAR+ has demonstrated its concepts via a prototype technological platform, refined in conjunction with iterative user input. The project started in early 2013 and will end in June 2015. Initial work involved defining user needs and creating a matching concept prototype. The prototype was developed and validated through several versions in response to user feedback. The device was scoped according to two main criteria: functional benefit and risk of implementation. The team first selected the riskiest requirements, subsequently validated with the user community. The resulting system was tested during an emergency command exercise, which included users, in Portugal. The ISAR+ prototype successfully exchanged information with citizens, and served as an information system facilitating management of resources and site control. After the trial, project researchers gathered additional user feedback for further analysis. ISAR+'s system facilitates community emergency communication, whereby citizens can acquire information to help each other and first responders. The system also expands access to emergency information services for people with disabilities.
Emergency response, citizen resources, mobile communications, crisis response, search and rescue