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Human factors, and social, societal, and organisational aspects for disaster-resilient societies


Proposals are invited to address related research and innovation issues, in particular:

Recent disasters related either to natural causes (including climate-related hazards) or to terrorist attacks have shown gaps in the level of preparedness of European society for disasters, and therefore highlighted the importance of increasing risk awareness, and hence resilience among people and decision-makers in Europe. There is much that can be learned from certain countries with a high level of risk of natural disasters (e.g. Japan with high-levels of risks of earthquakes, volcanic events, and tsunamis) and where risk awareness is high. Research is required with a view to how cultural changes among individuals, business managers, government officials, and communities can create a resilient society in Europe, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Over the past few years several ways to exploit social media and other crowd-sourced data in emergency situations have been studied, and some put in place, but their impacts are not well known. Research is needed to assess such practices for different disaster scenarios (natural hazards, industrial disasters, terrorist threats) involving different actors, including first responders, city authorities and citizens. Research should analyse both the positive and negative roles of social media and crowd-sourced data in crisis situations. For instance in the wake of a terror attack or natural disaster they offer a quick and easy way to relieve friends and family from worry (where networks are not down), and they generate valuable information about the affected area in the first moments after a disaster; they have been used to spread early warnings and important safety information. However, social media may also be used to spread false statements and to overstate threats, so the validation processes of information should also be addressed. Social media itself is reliant upon the functioning of critical infrastructure such as phone networks and may not always be available. Research should also address solutions for communication between first responders and the victims and citizens in the affected area.

Research on risk awareness should encompass the whole of the disaster management cycle, from prevention (e.g. through education) and preparedness (knowing how to react), emergency management (collaboration and communication before and during an event), response (empowering citizens to act efficiently by themselves according to more effective practices and following established guidelines), and recovery (knowledge to build back better). Researchers should take into account tangible and intangible cultural heritage, traditional know-how, land use, construction technologies, and other local knowledge which is a valuable source of information for the local communities and can help prevent the creation of new risks, to reduce existing risks, to prepare for and to respond to disasters and to build back better.

Sub-issues to be addressed are diversity in risk perception (as a result of e.g. geography (within Europe), attitudes, institutional and social trust, gender and socio-economic contexts), in vulnerabilities and in understanding responses to crises in order to propose new approaches and strategies for community awareness, for leadership, and for crisis readiness and management with a particular emphasis on the use of new technologies.

For achieving disaster-resilient societies that cope with disasters and build back better, the research community needs to transfer research outputs in an appropriate manner to meet citizen expectations given the current levels of risk acceptance, risk awareness, and involvement of civil society organisations in a mediating role.

Civil society organisations, first responders, (national, regional, local, and city) authorities are invited to propose strategies, processes, and methods to enable citizens better to access research results related to disaster resilience, and to prepare the ground for exercises involving citizens. These strategies, processes, and methods should be tested with citizens and communities representative of European diversity and for different types of disaster, in particular with regards to citizens' individual capacities and their involvement in checking and validating proposed tools, technologies and processes for disaster management. Studies will assess the value of raising awareness about relevant research among citizens and communities.

Proposals should be submitted by consortia involving relevant security practitioners and civil society organisations. Research should contribute to the understanding of society's awareness to risks in Europe in order to provide recommendations for the development of a culture of improved preparedness, adaptability, and resilience to risks, including the use of social media and crowd-sourced data, and the involvement of the citizens in the investigations and possible validation of tools and methods.

In line with the objectives of the Union's strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497), international cooperation according to the current rules of participation is encouraged (but not mandatory).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of about EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately through multidisciplinary projects confronting different schools of thoughts. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The resilience of societies heavily depends on how their citizens behave individually or collectively, and how governments and civil society organisations design and implement policies for mitigating risks, preparing for, reacting to, overcoming, and learning from disasters. The spread of new technologies and media are inducing dramatic changes in how individuals and communities behave, and they are affecting societies in unpredictable ways. Building the resilience of society and citizens requires a better understanding and implementation of these new technologies, media and tools, and their capacity to raise disaster risk awareness, to improve citizen understanding of risks, to build a culture of risks in society, to enable an effective response from affected populations, to improve functional organisation in most fragile and vulnerable environments, and to increase the resilience of health services, social services, education, and governance, in line with target (d) of the Sendai Framework on critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services.

As a result of this action, Member States and Regional authorities as well as City and Metropolitan authorities should benefit from recommendations and tools aimed at improving the adaptability and preparedness of societies to different disaster risks, including:

  • Comparative analysis of the European diversity in terms of risk-perception amongst citizens, and of vulnerabilities;
  • Comparative analysis of different approaches to adapt to, and be prepared for risks in different countries (both within and outside the European Union), and among communities in precarious socio-economic conditions;
  • Advances through the cross-fertilisation of concepts resulting from the collision of different ways of thinking and of different approaches developed by various partners in the proposals;
  • Identification of existing tools and guidelines for an improved prevention (including risk understanding and communication), preparedness (including training involving citizens), alert systems and their recognition by citizens, responses using citizen's competencies and local knowledge, and recovery;
  • Improved information exchanges among different actors involved, including first responders, local authorities, schools, and citizen representatives;
  • Field-validation of different approaches related to different disaster risks involving the above actors, in representative urban and non-urban environments, including in areas where precarious socio-economic conditions prevail;
  • Intensive sharing, among communities, of good practices and of learnings resulting from citizen-scientist interaction;
  • A consolidated, common European understanding of disaster resilience.