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Mapping risk areas to reduce the impact of natural disasters

Forewarned is forearmed for the FP7 funded INCREO project, which seeks to mitigate and prepare for disasters through risk and vulnerability mapping.

Emergency services and those charged with civil protection and disaster management will find their jobs easier thanks to the work being done by the EU’s INCREO (‘Increasing Resilience through Earth Observation’) project. The impact of climate change is already being felt and every year Europe is struck by natural disasters such as flooding. INCREO is putting forward earth observation solutions designed to deal with a variety of risks and tailored to match the user’s needs. The project collects its earth observation data from the EU's Copernicus programme, previously known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme. INCREO addresses multi-hazard situations, either where disasters can be triggered simultaneously or those where one leads on to another, and the project has selected dam failure, storm surge and wave height, flood and landslide as selected use cases. In October 2014 the project made its first global map addressing resilience and vulnerability issues in South West Europe and South East Asia available through its website’s products section ( and also uploaded a surface movement monitoring map of Buzau County, Romania. Reducing the impact of disasters requires us to understand how climate and socio-economic changes affect where and when disasters may occur. Earth observation data helps in the assessment and modelling of these changes, potentially allowing for the development of sustainable risk management strategies. But frequently there is a low perception of risk within the communities living in vulnerable areas. This low perception can mean not enough measures are put in place to reduce the impact of disasters. In some cases, the lack of awareness may cause land to be used in ways that would make a disaster even more severe. INCREO’s use of satellite imagery and mapping techniques can provide a realistic snapshot of a location, raising awareness and leading to the use of mitigation strategies where risk cannot be avoided. Evacuation of local residents is one of the biggest issues for civil protection teams in the event of a disaster, so the project intends to use earth observation data to work out population density. To do this the team needs to develop a way to get the necessary information from remote sensing data which will then need calibration to yield accurate results. The international project brings together ten partners from seven countries. Members of the consortium range from enterprises such as Airbus to organisations involved in supporting vulnerable sites, such as UNESCO Venice. Coordinated in France, INCREO’s total budget is almost EUR 3 million of which nearly EUR 2 million comes from the EU’s FP7 programme. For more information, please visit: INCREO