During a major crisis that affects thousands of people in various areas, different organisations need to communicate with each other easily and make decisions quickly in order to save people’s lives.
Currently, many civil protection operating systems are decentralised. Information exchange between organisations is limited as they have different technology, protocols and security layers. Interagency collaborative exercises involving the entire chain of command are costly and labour intensive.
In response to this need, the Horizon 2020 EU funded project, IN-PREP, is taking action in preparedness of crises with a system that enables response agencies to train, plan and collaborate together. In fact, scientists, engineers and crisis managers across Europe have developed a new Mixed Reality training platform for collaborative training in joint crisis operations.
The training platform will help responders to have a more efficient approach that will save precious seconds when responding to crisis enabling more lives to be saved.
“Crises in this era require response teams to be both efficient and effective. They need to have increased situational awareness, receive and share rich information while coordinating their efforts. IN-PREP will provide the necessary tools to help response teams address these goals, subsequently increasing the quality of humanitarian aid” said Dr Angelos Amditis IN-PREP coordinator.
Trilateral manages the Social, Ethics & Legal Panel as well as Security Scrutiny Board. We use this role to build a responsible research ethic from the start and to mitigate risks that might arise throughout the research process. Trilateral is also responsible for designing and conducting the ethical, privacy, legal impact assessment throughout the project, ensuring the project establishes a strong framework for responsible design and use.
What is the Mixed Reality Preparedness Platform?
The Mixed Reality Preparedness Platform (MRPP) is a training tool that combines many types of technologies to integrate how responders perceive information on the ground and how they direct their resource.
It is both user-friendly and intuitive. It provides an interactive, realistic 3D visualisation of the crisis environment combining a vast spectrum of data, both simulated and from the field. The MRPP will enable practitioners to make sense of a crisis situation from different perspectives and it will be used by responders from different agencies and countries to simulate future scenarios and practice together.
In a preparedness session, a simulated crisis would be merged into the real-world environment using a combination of technology such as augmented reality, sensor networks, evacuation possibilities and risk assessment.
Responders in the field will be able to visualise information about the simulated scenario while it evolves. While in the control room, the person in charge will be able to visualise how close the person in the field is to the simulated incident. All the different parts will be part of a common operational picture to facilitate informed decision making. These training sessions enable people who have never worked together before to practice together in preparation for real-life crisis events.
Training exercise for emergency responders
On 29 November 2019 IN-PREP tested for the first time their Mixed Reality Preparedness Platform (MRPP) with a disaster training table top exercise. The table top exercise, held with the cooperation of the municipality of Spoleto, involved firefighters, emergency medical practitioners and police in emergency response.
The Italian hilltop town sits on the foothills of the Apennines, close to the area of Abruzzo where avalanches and 3 emergencies occurred in 2017. The exercise, based on the scenario of a hazmat accident, trained civil protection responders to hone their skills for an effective coordinated response.
The cascading crisis was pitted against civil protection responders and the prototype training platform to test the response team’s coordination and speed in allocating resources, evacuating people and assessing risks as the crisis scenarios changed. Communication between different agencies and their systems (known as interoperability) and the Command and Control room were also being monitored. Drones, sensors and satellite images were used to enhance realism of the training sessions and provide an overview of the crisis.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism
In 2001, the European Union established the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in order to coordinate assistance and response to victims of natural and man-made disasters in any country in the world. The purpose of the mechanism is to improve response capacity so that the European Union is able to respond to multiple requests for aid. It provides additional relief to each state’s capacity or responsibilities.
The Mechanism currently includes civil protection authorities from 28 EU Member States in addition to Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, FYR Macedonia and Turkey.
Since its launch in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism received close to 300 requests for assistance and intervened in devastating disasters in Haiti (2010), Japan (2011), the Philippines (2013), the Ebola outbreak (2014), and was actively used in responding to the forest and wildfire emergencies in Greece , Sweden and Latvia this year. IN-PREP will test effective ways to implement the mechanism through their joint exercises.
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