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Rescue services to use social media

Inadequate information is often the problem during terrorism threats, natural disasters and other crises. Photo: Morguefile.
The EU project SOCIETIES intends to revolutionise the way we work during major crises – by exploiting social media.
Wireless technology has enabled us to go online ─  not only with our office PC during working hours, but all day long via our smartphones and laptops. We communicate via SMS and images. We join Facebook groups and receive personalised information. We chat and we skype.

Crisis management
The EU has decided to exploit wireless communication as part of a major three and a half year project called SOCIETIES, which is worth 120 millions and will be launched in October. It will exploit social media such as Facebook and Twitter ─ but in a professional manner.

SINTEF intends to contribute to the scenario dealing with crisis management, headed by the German space agency DLR.
“Our contribution will involve providing technology to facilitate social networking and the linkage of mobile telephones into a network”, says Babak Farshchian at SINTEF ICT.

Crisis evaluation
Inadequate information is often the problem during terrorism threats, natural disasters and other crises. During the crisis in Haiti, there were problems getting food and medicines to those in need. Rapid information about damage to roads and airstrips is essential if we are to provide emergency help and assistance.

- “An evaluation of the situation is the most pressing need,” says Farshchian. “What has happened? What is happening and where? What are the terrain conditions? Is anyone injured? Can we classify the injured?
- By using the cameras in mobile telephones to take pictures and locate them on Google Map, we can rapidly fix locations for all those involved. We can take a picture of a building and mark it on the map. We can set up a web page where all information can be assembled.”

The project will focus more on the organisation of already existing technology, rather than the development of new.
In order to establish clear and adequate operational logistics following a crisis, researchers must find out how the information, assembled in the best possible way, can then be disseminated to agencies such as the police, aid organisations and hospital personnel. The German DLR has large laboratories in Cyprus which will be utilised for testing during the project.