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An abstract from the EU Draft Report on a Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters.

An abstract from the EU Draft Report on a Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters:

‘It is vitally important for Member States to enhance their research and development (R&D) capacity in the area of disaster prevention and management. This is also an area where it is both possible and desirable to step up coordination and cooperation between Member States, especially those facing similar risks.’

A copy of the EU report is available:  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/envi/pr/806/806220/806220en.pdf

International Disaster Database, Europe

EM-DAT was created in Europe – Brussels, with the initial support of the WHO and the Belgian Government.Its main objectives are to assist humanitarian action at both national and international levels; to rationalize decision-making for disaster preparedness; and to provide an objective basis for vulnerability assessment and priority setting.

EM-DAT contains essential core data on the occurrence and effects of over 18,000 mass disasters in the world from 1900 to present. The database is compiled from various sources, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, insurance companies, research institutes and press agencies.

Development and relief agencies have long recognized the important role played by data and information in mitigating the impacts of disasters on vulnerable populations. Systematic collection and analysis of these data provides invaluable information to governments and agencies in charge of relief and recovery activities. It also aids the integration of health components into development and poverty alleviation programmes.

EM-DAT provides and objective basis for vulnerability assessment and rational decision-making in disaster situations. For example, it helps policymakers identify disaster types that are most common in a given country and have had significant historical impacts on specific human populations.

http://www.emdat.be

Smartphones: The Next-Generation Emergency Alert System.

Disseminating Relevant Information

According to a recent Pew Research public opinion poll, 26 percent of Americans receive their news and information from cell phones. Additionally the poll found that 43 percent of those under 50 receive news on their mobile phones. These two findings demonstrate an important factor when considering how best to modernize emergency alert notification systems as it has serious implications for enhancing the distribution of timely information. In particular, mobile phone technology adoption rates and the use of these ubiquitous devices as a main informational portal for civilians is a key component to re-engineering future alert systems.

Keeping this in mind, it’s vital to recognize the importance of cell phones and smartphones as a critical link to broadcasting emergency alerts to citizens. In December 2008, 32 percent of consumers used a smartphone. Compare that number with December 2009 when it increased to 42 percent of consumers. The figures are significant as the adoption rate of smartphones is projected by the Nielsen Company, a marketing and media information company, to reach 50 percent and begin to overtake feature phone adoption by the third quarter of 2011.

To read the entire article click here.

Common Alerting Protocol Seal of Approval

As the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) gains momentum as a standard for emergency messages, a laboratory is being stood up to test vendor products for CAP compliance. Vendors now have a place where they can put their products through independent testing to gain bragging rights for “certified” CAP compliance. And, emergency management professionals and other buyers will have independent certification that products they buy are truly CAP compliant.

For more click here: http://www.emergencymgmt.com/emergency-blogs/alerts/Common-Alerting-Protocol-Seal.html

Miniature-earth initiative

The humanitarian Ceasa-int organisation also supports the miniature-earth initiative:

http://www.miniature-earth.com/me_english.htm

Sri Lanka’s mass alert warning

Dialog Telekom PLC in collaboration with its partners Dialog University of Moratuwa Mobile Communications Research Laboratory and Microimage Technologies together with the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) of Sri Lanka launched Sri Lanka’s first ever mass alert warning system; the ‘Disaster and Emergency Warning Network’ (DEWN) yesterday under the patronage of Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Speaking on the launch of DEWN Group Chief Executive Officer, Dialog Telekom PLC, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said that “There are 10 million people in this country who have access to telecommunication and mobile services. Now the mobile has become a powerful tool which could be called as a ‘Digital Empowerment Device’ and our citizens are digitally empowered into the digital network”. Dr. Wijayasuriya went onto say that now one can even provide banking and other information services via a mobile phone unit adding that the Dialog News Alert service has now reached 350,000 subscribers.

New York will send crisis text via CB

Sept 2007_Abstract NY Post:
In the aftermath of the Deutsche Bank fire and the Midtown steam-pipe explosion, city officials yesterday announced they will begin testing rapid-alert programs to rush text messages to New Yorkers’ cellphones. Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler told lawmakers at a City Council hearing that a pilot program using text messages as an early-alert system for communities will be ready to roll out within a few months.

“We expect to launch the pilot at the end of this year. At the same time, we are wary of it, because we know that the communications infrastructure isn’t as reliable as we would like,” he said of brief text messages that would be limited to 60 characters.

The Bloomberg administration has its eyes on what could be a more effective alert system that would use mobile-phone networks to send emergency messages to anyone carrying a phone within a specific swath of the city.

Called “cell broadcasting,” the alert system would require mobile-phone companies to make upgrades to their infrastructure – changes that City Hall is pushing for.
“It is not possible for us to use cell broadcasting today, because wireless carriers have resisted investing resources in this emerging technology,” Skyler said.

Abstract NYpost

Cell Broadcast warning service in Japan

In 2008, DoCoMo Japan, will begin a severe-weather and earthquake warning service using the cell broadcast service. Data from the meteorological agency will be broadcast to phones from cell towers.
Included will be earthquake warnings that will flow from a new system introduced earlier this year that attempts to give notice to people in the few seconds between an earthquake striking and the strong shaking waves reaching people.

Cell Broadcast services in India

The Indian operator BSNL has introduced a cell broadcast services through which vital information and messages can be given to all subscribers in a particular or entire service area.
Cell broadcast services can be utilised to provide vital information about any disaster, disaster management measures or any other important information. The location-based services include different services, including: traffic alert service, emergency service, public safety and information regarding weather etc.
BSNL cellular service in India has more than 17.8 million cellular customers, garnering 24 percent of all mobile users as its subscribers.

Dutch Test Emergency Cell Phone alert

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Cell phones throughout a downtown hotel beeped simultaneously Tuesday with an alert: there is a suspicious package in the building.
It was a drill, run by Dutch authorities testing an emergency “cell broadcasting” system that sends a text message to every mobile phone in a defined area.

Representatives from 21 national governments, New York City and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, watched the signal go out to cell phones throughout the Sofitel hotel in Amsterdam. About half the people in the building then followed instructions and evacuated.

“We want to see what worked and what didn’t,” said David Webb, of FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue Program. “The EU (European Union) is really leading the way with this technology.”
Transmitting mass warnings to mobile phones is more difficult than it might seem.
Cell broadcasting is not the same as sending an SMS, or Short Message Service, which is transmitted to individual phones, said Dutch Interior Ministry spokesman Frank Havik.
An SMS-based system is prone to failure during crises, since networks can jam and messages may not arrive in time. That happened in Thailand during a Pacific Basin-wide tsunami drill in May.
The cell broadcasting system works on a different frequency from regular voice and SMS traffic, avoiding jams. It beams out a single message to all mobile phones that are turned on within a given area.

“CELL BROADCAST TEST. SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE IN HOTEL. IMMEDIATE EVACUATION REQUIRED. GO TO STAIRWELL VIA EMERGENCY EXIT. REPORT IN LOBBY,” said Tuesday’s experimental message.

Havik said he witnessed an emergency in 2000, when a fireworks depot caught fire and exploded in the Dutch town of Enschede, killing 23 people, leveling an entire city block and injuring nearly 1,000.
“The mayor was debating whether we should ring the church bells or send fire engines riding around with their sirens on as a warning signal,” he said. “This is certainly an improvement.”
Abstract from The Chronicle.