IT support for emergency management

In the last five years IT support for emergency forces has become an important topic in FIT’s research portfolio, with projects ranging from technology for individual firefighters to modeling of cross-organizational risk management processes. Groundbreaking work was done in two early European projects, wearIT@work, which developed tactical navigation support for firefighters, and SETRIC, which focused on risk management in cities.

The wearIT@work project designed, in close cooperation with the Paris Fire Department, support for firefighters to find their way in and out of buildings on fire. One result was the navigation system LifeNet, which was chosen as one of a hundred Products of the Future by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The system is based on a wireless network of sensor nodes put in place by the advancing firefighters; the prototype proved very successful in a search-and-rescue-exercise at the end of the project in 2009. In a follow-up project, PROFITEX, we work with a group of European fire departments to develop LifeNet into a marketable product. Another result of wearIT@work is FireSim, a simulation-based methodology for user-centered prototyping. It is being extended to investigate potential IT support for disaster management in the follow-up project SOCIONICAL.

The SETRIC project on Security and Trust In Cities brought together researchers and a group of large European cities in an effort to share and agree upon best practice of risk management in cities. The European ERMA project built on the findings of SETRIC regarding the organization of manageable processes and developed the Electronic Risk Management Architecture, a risk management platform for municipal agencies and emergency services.

Quick assessment of building stability after an earthquake

After the earthquake that hit the Italian town of l’Aquila in 2009, experts assessed the stability of a number of important buildings using the advanced assessment and communication technology that FIT had helped to develop in the European STEP project. Faster, more reliable safety assessments help to avoid unnecessary evacuations and to improve the coordination of rescue operations. FIT built the cooperation system for the emergency vehicle developed in the STEP project. This cooperation system includes an adhoc WLAN mesh network for reliable communication among the rescue teams and with the coordinating staff.

Which way when the house is on fire?

In a massive disaster it is vital to quickly get the overall picture as well as a good understanding of the multitude of local situations and needs. In particular in large fires, local reconnaisance can be difficult and extremely hazardous. FIT is involved in the SOCIONICAL project, a European effort to develop concepts for effective cooperation of intelligent building technologies, support systems for emergency forces, e.g. LifeNet, and the smartphones carried by the people in the disaster area. Events like the London bombings are analyzed in cooperation with civil defense agencies to develop concepts for improving security, e.g. during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. This involves early detection of hazardous situations as well as assistance for evacuation and rescue operations.