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I-REACT tests its latest cyber technology to prevent floods and other natural hazards

13 June 2018

A new set of I-REACT tools designed to improve disaster response and to enhance the resilience of communities to natural hazards will be tested together for the first time during the training workshop on Improving Resilience to Emergencies through Advanced Cyber Technologies on 13-14 June 2018 in Ipswich, United Kingdom. The event co-organised by ISBM - Istituto Superiore Mario Boella and Aquobex, with the participation of UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and its Earth Sciences and Geo-Hazards Risk Reduction section, foresees as a scenario for the demonstration the rain-induced riverine flood of the Orwell river.

Designed to integrate and manage data from various monitoring systems, including social media, the I-REACT tools include augmented reality glasses and wearable technology for emergency responders, drones and a social media analysis tool for the emergency response coordinators, which monitors real-time information on the situation on the ground.

Current risk management systems are not making the most of technological progress and access to the huge amounts of information available in the era of Big Data. Over the last 20 years, more than 1.35 million people have died as a result of their vulnerability and exposure to natural hazards, with women and girls bearing a heavy toll.

UNESCO joined forces with several European institutions with a diverse expertise in order to develop the tools needed to improve the effectiveness of emergency management systems and foster more resilient societies.

Through the joint project, Improving Resilience to Emergencies through Advanced Cyber Technologies (I-REACT), a set of solutions were designed, integrating satellite observations, historical information, models and weather forecasts with real time data from various sources. Funded by the European Union, the I-REACT project brings together 20 partners from 9 countries.

The I-REACT project goals are to improve resilience to emergencies through advanced cyber technologies to help society in becoming more resilient to crises arising before, during and after emergency events. It aims to provide increased resilience to natural hazards though better analysis and anticipation, effective and fast emergency response, increased awareness and citizen engagement achieved by better integration of existing emergency management systems and multiple data sources.

Whilst it can offer an “end to end” solution where necessary, in practice I-REACT comprises a flexible range of tools that enable it to be adapted to support existing structures and systems without duplication. This allows different end users to adopt different elements of I-REACT capability, at different times, to suit their local circumstances and needs. 

The aim of this 2-day workshop will be that of facilitating the interaction between I-REACT partners and end users from the expert and community level from a country with an existing/developed warning system, and of enabling UK participants to consider the value of enhanced cyber technologies for their own use.

The set of I-REACT tools is highly modular and can be adopted separately by the emergency services, enabling managers to interface the I-REACT solutions with existing technologies. Plans embrace tests with local civil protection organisations and volunteers in several countries over the next months - including Finland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The test is being adapted to the local context and vulnerability to hazards.

During the 2 days of the rain-induced riverine flood simulation exercise of the Orwell river, representatives of the Environment Agency, Flood Forecasting Centre, county councils and insurance professionals will work together to explore how new technologies could be integrated in current disaster risk management systems. The exercise will also count on a team of volunteers to report through the I-REACT mobile application about the flood situation on the ground to the emergency coordination services.