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From people to infrastructure: Creation of disaster-resilient societies

Mention ‘disaster’ in relation to society and the mind goes immediately to changing-climate–related events such as floods. However, there are many other types of catastrophe, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, space weather events, industrial disasters, crime and terrorism threats. The EU is working to reduce the loss of human life and material damage from all these sources of human misery.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy
Society icon Society
Security icon Security

Securing society against disasters is one of the central elements that enable any society to keep on functioning. There are hardly any societal functions that are not to some extent exposed to natural or man-made disasters and related resilience and security issues.

Drawing resources from a range of technologies

The challenges of EU security research are wide-ranging and consequently involve a broad span of technological development and management skills. Cybercrime and terrorism threaten vulnerable urban or protected areas and critical infrastructures such as harbours and transport and energy infrastructures. Development of a range of innovative solutions can help protect these vulnerable areas. Research efforts at EU level in the disaster reduction area are primarily contributing to the implementation of international conventions such as the UN Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction and EU regulations such the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and related policies (e.g. Flood Directive, CBRN Action Plan etc.). These generally aim to facilitate reinforced cooperation between the EU and the Member States and to promote coordination in the field of civil protection, to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing, preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters. This policy framework has a direct impact on the way disaster risks are being managed in the EU, thus influencing first responders’ operations. Linking these services together is development of communications facilitating disaster management, connecting situational awareness and command centres. In all these scenarios, there are first responders, and EU projects are working on innovations to protect them in disaster situations. Last but not least, citizens are vulnerable, and new technologies and policies are increasing risk awareness and hence resilience among citizens, taking into account cultural specificities for different disaster scenarios.

Mitigating disaster with the work of eight EU projects

The ultimate purpose of the ANYWHERE project is to empower exposed responder institutions and citizens to enhance their anticipation and proactive capacity of response to face extreme and high-impact weather and climate events using a pan-European multi-hazard platform. The main goal of beAWARE is to provide support in all the phases of an emergency incident in extreme weather and climate events. As societies become more complex, increasing scope and unpredictability of potential crises and faster dynamics of major incidents put increasingly stringent demands on CM. European CM capabilities already constitute a mature system of systems, and wholesale redesign would often be too costly and might critically destabilise existing CM capabilities. Therefore, DRIVER+ focuses on augmenting rather than replacing existing capabilities. Applying the same principle through advanced cyber technologies I-REACT integrated existing services, both local and European, into a platform that supports the entire emergency management cycle by integrating a range of data from multiple sources – including information provided by citizens through social media and crowdsourcing. Using novel sensors and visualisation tools, INACHUS has worked to reduce time for rescue operations in crisis incidents that are invariably in difficult operating conditions. For disasters involving toxin exposure and injury, distinctive technological attributes of TOXI-triage include: rapid non-invasive assessment of exposure/injury through monitoring metabolic markers of injury; managing and exploiting the semantic web; traceability by design; aptamer-based biosensing; casualty-to-discharge system integration; and integrated environmental and stand-off hazard designation. With an emphasis on critical infrastructures, DARWIN worked to improve response to expected and unexpected crises that also embraces social structures. The project addressed the management of both man-made events (e.g. cyberattacks) and natural events (e.g. earthquakes). Lastly, for when the damage has occurred or is pending, the SMR (Smart Mature Resilience) project consortium has created a set of tools that will help EU cities achieve resilience through resisting, absorbing, accommodating and recovering from hazards or disasters.