Researchers to help create ‘early-warning systems’ through social media to combat future disasters

Posted by ap507 at Jun 10, 2015 12:18 PM |
University of Leicester researchers to examine how social media can help build community resilience to natural and human-made disasters

Issued on the University of Leicester Press Office on 10 June 2015 

  • European Commission Horizon 2020-funded project to explore how social media can help response and recovery times during natural and human-made crises, such as the recent Nepal earthquake or sinking of ships at sea
  • Researchers will examine natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes and flooding; fires in buildings and tunnels; and major incidents at outdoor events such as pop concerts
  • Crowdsourcing of information such as tweets and image mapping can empower public to help aid affected communities
  • In May 2015 University of Leicester staff and students raised over £4,000 for the Nepal earthquake crisis through crowdsourcing

University of Leicester researchers are examining how communities can use social media to improve their resilience to both human-made and natural disasters – such as the recent Nepal earthquake or the sinking of ships that left thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea.

Researchers from the University of Leicester’s Department of Media and Communication, led by Dr Paul Reilly, are contributing to a European Commission Horizon 2020-funded project which will examine how social media can be used to crowdsource information during a crisis situation – and how this information can help reduce response and recovery times and raise awareness about the risk of future disasters.

The project, ‘IMPROVER: Improved risk evaluation and implementation of resilience concepts to critical infrastructure’, will see the Leicester team look specifically at how community representatives and those involved in emergency management can use social media to create early-warning systems that can be activated during such events.

They hope to identify examples of good practice for information dissemination to the public during crises. These will be used to develop a communication strategy for emergency services and incident managers that will raise public awareness about the risks associated with these events.

Dr Paul Reilly, who is leading the Leicester project, said: “We hope this research will provide valuable evidence for agencies involved in emergency management and members of the public.

“We will look at the value of crowdsourced crisis information for those involved in emergency management. In particular, we will explore how members of the public can be empowered to provide accurate and timely information during these events that decrease response and recovery times.”

The researchers will examine: natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes and flooding; fires in buildings and tunnels; and outdoor events such as pop concerts.

Examples such as the Flood Alert app in the UK and the ‘One Source One Message’ in Australia will be used to explore how the live information provided by social media users might be used by resilience practitioners to increase disaster preparedness within communities vulnerable to such incidents.

The Leicester team will consist of Dr Paul Reilly and Research Associate Dr Dimitrinka Atanasova from the University of Leicester’s Department of Media and Communication, with this part of the project due to finish in December 2016.

Dr Atanasova added: “Crowdsourcing efforts are on the rise. In the very recent Nepal earthquake we have witnessed another wave of crowdsourcing efforts, such as tweet and image maps of people trapped in debris. As these efforts are rising, there is also a growing need to critically evaluate them which is what we hope to do it this project.”

The IMPROVER project also includes: SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden; Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre; The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø; DBI (Denmark), INOV INESC INOVAÇÃ; INERIS (the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks); SP Fire Research AS; University College London; and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

Dr Reilly and Dr Atanasova will be discussing the research at the IMPROVER kick-off meeting, which will take place at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Borås, Sweden on 11 and 12 June.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 653390. 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Dr Paul Reilly on pr93@le.ac.uk

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