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Under the volcano: Aston University reports on Iceland’s evacuation preparedness [June-2010]

A team from Aston University’s Centre for Research into Safety and Security (CRISIS) has just returned from Iceland where they delivered their findings on evacuating the public during major disasters. The visit was part of the EU-funded Evacuation Responsiveness by Government Organisations (ERGO) project. The team also visited Eyjafjallajökull volcano to find out how they evacuated nearby residents during its recent eruption.

Professor Shaw, who led the visit, said: “We are immensely proud of the impact that the ERGO project is having on the ten countries that are involved in the project. This latest visit, to Iceland, comes at a time when emergency officials have just evacuated those in the vicinity of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. While much of Europe was brought to a standstill, about 1000 residents of Iceland were sheltering in Red Cross evacuation centres and they now continue with a major clean up operation in the aftermath of the ash fall-out.”

ERGO Feedback visit to Denmark [May-2010]

The ERGO team visited Copenhagen, Denmark to present the project’s preliminary findings at the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA). The meeting was attended by representatives from DEMA and the Danish emergency services.

On a previous data collection visit the team had gathered information about the Seest firework factory disaster. This event, which occurred in 2004, killed one and injured twenty-four. The event took place in a suburb of the city of Kolding. Over 2,000 people were evacuated following a fire and major explosion at a firework factory.

ERGO team makes Spanish Feedback visit [March-2010]

Last week Dr. Pavel Albores, and Paul Kailiponi visited Cádiz to provide a Feedback session on the ERGO project for officials from the region's emergency management staff, and emergency services. They presented the preliminary findings of the project to over sixty attendees, and members of the local media. The next Feedback session is scheduled for 28-29 April in Denmark.

ERGO team presents findings in Hamburg [March-2010]

The Evacuation Responsiveness by Government Organisations (ERGO) research team visited Hamburg, Germany last week to present the project's preliminary findings to officials from the city's emergency services. The Feedback session was attended by many people who were interviewed for the project during the team's last visit.

Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg sits on the River Elbe at the confluence of the Alster and Bille. The city is a major industrial centre, home to Airbus manufacturing plants and the headquarters of the Spiegel-Verlang media empire. Water transport has been central to Hamburg’s development, and the city’s port is the world’s ninth-largest. Hamburg’s internal public transport infrastructure consists of mass transit rail lines, a bus network and ferries. The city relies upon 2,300 bridges spanning its canals and waterways for day-to-day activities. Tourism plays an increasing role in the city’s economy, almost four million people visited in 2007.

Flooding has been the central threat to Hamburg for many years, the worst incident in living memory being the North Sea flood of 1962. These floods were amongst the most devastating ever recorded, claiming 315 lives and leaving 60,000 homeless. The destruction was caused by a storm surge in the North Sea. Driven by winds of 200 km/h dykes were breached along the Elbe and Weser resulting in 120 km squared of flooding. During this January’s cold weather water authorities deployed ice breakers to clear the Elbe-Seiten canal to avert flooding. The operation disrupted coal and steel transport between Germany and Poland, indicating the potential economic disruption widespread flooding could cause.

Susan Anson, responsible for the ERGO project's social marketing component, spoke about the different means employed around the world to prepare individuals for disaster and evacuation. She presented material ranging from Icelandic hazard maps for avalanches caused by volcanoes to textbooks used to prepare Bulgarian schoolchildren for disasters. Paul Kailiponi, whose research has focussed on decision theory's relevance to disaster planning, spoke about using statistical models to determine when dyke levels should be raised and evacuation orders given. Magesh Nagarajan provided an overview of how warning public warning siren distribution could be made more effective based on Japanese experiences of preparing for tsunamis.

Masterclass 2 held in Brussels, Belgium [March-2010]

Emergency managers from across Europe converged on the West Midlands in Europe Centre for the Aston CRISIS Centre's second Masterclass held 2nd-3rd March. Topics under discussion included the nuclear preparation plan for Belgium, introduced by Koen De Budt, attache to the Crisis Centre of the Belgian government. Guðrún Jóhannesdótti, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police responsible for civil protection, gave an address on public preparedness and inter-agency collaboration. Speaking next, Matthijis Kok from HKV in the Netherlands, outlined Dutch experiences in preparing for flooding and mass evacuation. Jesper Nielson, from UMS Denmark gave a presentation on using mobile phones to alert the population to an emergency. Also presenting were David Powell from Lincolnshire County Council and Andy Baxendale, the northern area manager for the Environment Agency. Their lecture discussed problems associated with costal flooding. Adding to the discussion, Julie Clemant from Oost-Flanders decribed the problems around informing the public after the discovery of a WWII bomb. The ERGO team also ran a workshop on pet evacuation.

Session 1

Koen De Budt, Attache, Crisis Center of the Belgian Government. Hans De Neef, Co-ordinator Nuclear Emergency Plan, Crisis Center of the Belgian Govt. Elke Allaert, Emergency Planning at The Federal Services of the Governor of East-Flanders. Yves D'Eer, Emergency Planning, Community of Beveren, Belgium.

Topic: The Belgian nuclear emergency plan. The Province of East-Flanders and the community of Beveren is used as a case study for preparations they are making for a major evacuation exercise to be held in April 2010.

Guðrún Jóhannesdóttir, The National Commissioner Of The Icelandic Police, Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, Iceland

Topic: Public Preparedness and Inter-Agency Collaboration.

Matthijs Kok, HKV, The Netherlands

Topic: National planning for evacuation in The Netherlands, in particular our experiences of the Waterproef and Floodex exercises which conducted trial evacuations.

Session 2

Anne Flonneau, Programme Manager, European Commission, DG Justice, Freedom, Security

Topic: How to prepare a grant application for the EU Programme on Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism and other Security related risks.

Jesper Nielson, UMS Denmark

Topic: A system to alert the population using mobile phones.

David Powell, Head of Emergency Planning, Lincolnshire County Council Andy Baxendale, Northern Area Manager, Environment Agency

Topic: Meeting the challenges of coastal inundation in Lincolnshire: Mass evacuation and invacuation.

Julie Clemant, Oost-Flanders, Belgium

Topic: An experience on public informing when finding the WW2 bomb in Evergem-Oost-Vlaanderen.

Simon Lewis, Head of Emergency Preparedness, The Metropolitan Police, London.

Topic: Inter-agency cooperation: Insights from the UK.

ERGO Master Class - 1 organised in Birmingham UK[Feb-2010]

This week (2-3-Feb-2010) sees 25 senior emergency planners from across Europe meeting at Aston for a Masterclass hosted by the ABS CRISIS Centre. They meet as part of the European Commission funded ERGO project which is using business techniques derived from marketing, decision analysis and simulation to understand how best to evacuate large populations in times of emergency. Presentations will be made by CRISIS centre staff as well as government officials from Iceland, Netherlands, and Spain. The UK is represented by the Resilience Teams from Birmingham City Council and Essex as well as South Wales Police. A podcast from the event can be found here. A further Masterclass will be held next month in Brussels and a major international conference on evacuation preparedness hosted at Aston in September.

Session 1

Sveinn Kristján Rúnarsson Lögreglan Hvolsvelli, Member of Civil Defense Committee in Rangarvalla- and V-Skaftafellsdistrict, Iceland

Topic: Katla a sub glacier volcano: The threat and a public preparedness study.

Rosanna Briggs, Deputy County Emergency Planning Officer Essex County Council, UK

Topic: Developing Community Resilience in schools by raising awareness of emergency situations with children through education and interactive methods within a non-threatening environment.

Alvaro Pemartin, Medical Coordinator of Public Utility for Healthcare Emergencies, Spain

Topic: Preparation for mass movement of people/medical support for mass pilgrimage.

Session 2

Bas Kolen, HKV, The Netherlands

Topic: A view from The Netherlands on the public’s risk perception of crises and exploring the willingness of the public be self-reliant during a crisis and their willingness to conduct advanced preparation.

Dave Granville, South Wales Police, UK

Topic: EVAC Cardiff – The multi agency approach to warning and informing the public.

Martin Tolman, Emergency Planning and Business Continuity, Birmingham City Council, UK

Topic: Mass evacuation - The relationship between command and control and community self-reliance.


ERGO team visits Iceland [May-2009]

ERGO team from Aston CRISIS centre visited Reykjavik, Iceland for Data collection. Guðrún Jóhannesdóttir, Project Manager, The National Commissioner of The Icelandic Police, Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management Iceland, coordinated the entire visit.

Iceland has many hazards like earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and snow avalanches. The population of Iceland is about 306,694 people spread across the country. This serves as a challenge to manage the evacuation using limited resource. One of the case studies presented by them was about Katla Sub-glacier volcano evacuation. It was also interesting to see the adoption of IT models in evacuation management (for example flooding and Traffic simulation models) and also the extent of network among emergency officials.

During the visit to Reykjavik, there were representatives from various organisations participated in interviews and shared about their preparation for mass evacuation situation and the interviews were found to be very informative.

  • Visit to the National Coordination Centre and the Emergency Alert 112 Centre
  • Vist to the Coast Guard Centre and the Police Dispatch Centre
  • The Icelandic Association of Rescue Teams (SAR)
  • The Icelandic Red Cross.
  • Chief superintendent of Police (Katla Region)
  • The Icelandic Coast Guard
  • The Icelandic Road Administration.
  • The Ambulance providers and fire service
  • Meteorological Office.
  • Verkís Engineers
  • EFLA/Engineer Consultants
  • Professor Magnus Tumi Guðmundsson, University of Iceland

ERGO team in Iceland

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visits Japan [Apr-2009]

As part of the ERGO Project Aston CRISIS Centre researchers travelled to Japan to analyse evacuation planning preparation in advance of catastrophic earthquakes. Japan represents a country that must constantly live with the threat of seismic events. Data gathering included interviews and visits to various sites in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Shizuoka. A special thanks goes out to Dr. Haruo Hayashi, Dr. Norio Maki, and Dr. Satoshi Tanaka for scheduling the visits as well as providing needed translation services.

Emergency preparations for a catastrophic earthquake around the Tokyo area have been a continuing process since the 1970’s. The imminent threat of a worst-case scenario that can lead to an evacuation of millions of individuals from the Tokyo Metropolitan area represents an enormous task for emergency officials. The planning scenario does not only include effects of the earthquake but also secondary disasters such as fire and tsunamis that can also threaten millions of individuals.

Throughout the week researchers were able to meet with a wide variety of organizations that contribute to various aspects of emergency planning in advance of major earthquakes.

  • National Emergency Management
  • National Fire Agency
  • Academic research performed by the University of Tokyo
  • Vector Research Institute
  • City of Yokohama Department of Emergency Management
  • Shizuoka Prefecture Emergency Management
  • City of Shizuoka Department of Emergency Management

Tours were also performed at the Tokai Earthquake Coordination Centre in Tokyo. Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visits Copenhagen [Apr-2009]

Members of Aston CRISIS Centre recently returned from a data collection visit to Copenhagen. Birgitte Buch, Senior Legal Adviser, National Danish Police, coordinated the visit. The police role in evacuation is alerting the public, setting up cordons and the actual evacuation.

In Denmark the most common reason for evacuation is due to flooding. Two practical examples of evacuation were presented during the visit. Two representatives from Southeast Jutland Police outlined the evacuation of 2,000 people in an area due to massive explosions in a firework storage building. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a representative from the National Operations and Emergency Management Centre also discussed the evacuation of approximately 6,000 Danes from Lebanon.

During the three day visit, the researchers held informative interviews with representatives from:

  • The Danish National Operations and Emergency Management Centre
  • MOVIA (Traffic company)
  • Copenhagen Police
  • Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA)
  • Southeast Jutland Police
  • National Police, NEC
  • The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

ERGO team in Copenhagen

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visits Brussels [Mar-2009]

In the first of two data collection visits scheduled for March 2009, members of the ERGO team visited Brussels. The visit was arranged by Koen De Budt, Coordinator of the Higher Institute of Emergency Planning, which is a part of the Belgian Crisis Centre (Federal Public Service of the Interior).

During the visit representatives outlined how emergency planning in Belgium is organized on three different levels; municipal, provincial and federal. At each different level there is a different person responsible for emergency planning; the Mayor, Governor or Minister of Home Affairs respectively. At each level there are also five different disciplines involved in emergency planning.

  • Discipline 1: rescue operations (fire brigade)
  • Discipline 2: medical, sanitary and psychosocial aid
  • Discipline 3: local police
  • Discipline 4: logistics
  • Discipline 5: information to the population

During the visit, interviews were held with individuals from a wide range of organizations, including the five disciplines outlined above. The ERGO team had very informative interviews with the following organizations:

  • The Crisis Centre
  • Federal Police
  • Representatives from East-Flanders
  • Emergency management representatives from the Province of Liege
  • Provincial Communication
  • National Fire Service
  • Provincial Police Services
  • National Communication
  • Emergency Planning Public Servant
  • Red Cross
  • National Logistics
  • National Medical Services, Psychosocial Intervention Plan
  • Agreement TEC (Public Transport)

ERGO team in Brussels

The ERGO team also met with academics from the University of Namur, who are conducting a research project with the Belgian Crisis Centre.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

The First ERGO International Advisory Board [Feb-2009]

The ERGO team recently welcomed senior practitioners from Belgium, Germany, Japan and the UK for the first two day International Advisory Board meeting held at Aston University. The Board will meet each year to review and provide feedback on the progress of the ERGO project. For more information on the International Advisory Board members please click here

During these two days the International Advisory Board discussed the progress of the ERGO project so far and attended presentations on the following areas:

  • Developing a marketing plan for evacuation preparedness.
  • Using multi-criteria decision analysis to analyse evacuation options.
  • Modelling resource allocation.
  • The role of communication during evacuations.
  • Disseminating the warning message.
  • An integrated model of evacuation preparedness.

The ERGO team also had the opportunity to hear from the International Advisory Board members about evacuation planning in their respective countries. Members spoke about particular evacuation issues related to scenarios in their country such as flooding or nuclear incidents.

IAB meeting in Feb09

The team is (Left to Right) - Prof. Haruo Hayashi, Prof. Duncan Shaw, Simon Lewis, Magesh Nagarajan, Dr. Patrick Tissington, Susan Anson, Koen De Budt, Dr. Peer Rechenbach and Dr. Pavel Albores.

Representatives from Denmark, Spain, Sweden and the recently joined Iceland and Netherlands were unable to attend this Advisory Board however the Board will be meeting again later in 2009. At that meeting board members will discuss the shape of the emerging training programmes for each country. These training programmes will be delivered to managers and staff in each country by Aston University and will provide lessons on what is good preparedness. Also, later in the project the Ergo team will facilitate master-classes where the countries train each other in their plans for evacuation preparedness.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visits London [Feb-2009]

Researchers from the Aston Crisis Centre recently visited London as part of the EU-funded ERGO project into planning for mass evacuation. Peter Hill Cottingham, Resilience Manager co-ordinated the visit.

During the visit, the team met with representatives from:

  • Transport for London
  • London Ambulance Service
  • British Transport Police
  • London Resilience Team

In the interviews representatives outlined the particular challenges London faces in emergency planning due to its large visitor population and the problems associated with communicating threats such as a terrorist attack to the public. Discussions also focused on how the London bombings on July 7th 2005 had affected emergency planning.

Further interviews with representatives from the Cabinet Office, London Borough of Croydon, London Underground, London Fire Brigade Service and Transport for London are scheduled for the end of March 2009.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visits Stockholm [Jan-2009]

Members of Aston Crisis Centre recently spent two days in Stockholm as part of the EU-funded ERGO mass evacuation project. The visit was coordinated by Mr Mats Ardbreck, Strategist for Nuclear emergency preparedness, MSB - Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

Interviews were conducted with the representatives from four organisations:

  • Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency
  • The County Administrative Board
  • The National Police Board
  • The County Council

The main risk discussed in the interviews was evacuation due to nuclear incidents. Nuclear power plants are located in three counties in Sweden, one of these being Uppsala County. Representatives from The County Administrative Board, The National Police Board and County Council in Uppsala travelled to Stockholm to be interviewed on emergency preparedness.

ERGO Team in Stockholm The team is (Left to Right) - Hans Bayard, Magesh Nagarajan, Bertil Gunnarsson, Susan Anson, Malin Modh, Mats Ardbreck and Charlotta Ingvarsdotter.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team visit to Cadiz and Jerez (Spain) [Jan-2009]

Aston CRISIS Center researchers travelled to Spain for their second data-gathering trip for the EU-funded ERGO Project.A special thanks goes out to the emergency operations offices of Huelva and Cadiz for meeting with CRISIS Center members and to Dr. Alvaro Permartin M.D. for facilitating the visit to Spain.

The first event studied was the annual pilgrimage to El Rocio.This religious occurrence attracts approximately one million visitors from around Spain to a small village with a normal population of about 1,500 people.  Emergency officials have an enormous logistical challenge to prepare for emergency contingencies where resources and infrastructure are very limited.  The second event analyzed emergency preparations for the Premier GP Moto.Over the course of week preceding and during the event approximately 120,000 visitors descend on Jerez.

Two meetings were completed over two days and included a wide variety of organizations that contribute to emergency services planning in Spain.These organizations include:

  • Emergency Operations
  • Police Organizations (Local, Autonomous, National and Civil Guards)
  • Fire Services
  • Public Health Officials
  • Municipal Authorities

The visit also included tours of local emergency operations offices in Huelva and Cadiz as well as Department of Health offices for coordinating emergency medical services.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

Ergo team visits city of Hamburg [Nov-2008]

Members of the Aston CRISIS Centre ( recently returned from a three day visit to Hamburg as part of our EU-funded Ergo Project into planning for mass evacuation. The visit was hosted by Dr Peer Rechenbach, Head of Civil Protection and Disaster Management, Ministry of Interior, Hamburg.

Hamburg is at risk of storm surges causing tidal flooding. In 1962 310 people died and 60,000 had damage to their homes when the tide level of the River Elbe rose to 5.7m. In 1976, when the tide level rose to 6.5 meters above sea level there were no deaths as a result of the substantial flood protection measures. 

During the visit we interviewed 19 senior managers from across all the emergency services and bodies that would respond if a major catastrophic incident was to happen in Hamburg. This included:

  • Federal Agency for Technical Relief
  • Regional Disaster Managers
  • Police
  • Fire Brigade
  • German Red Cross
  • Malteser
  • St Johns
  • Transport providers
  • Hamburg Port Authority

We also had very informative tours of the Bus and Metro Control Centres from where transport operations would be coordinated during floods, terrorist incidents and events that draw mass crowds.

Working with eight European countries and Japan, the Aston Crisis Centre will transfer good practice for mass evacuations to enable European countries to further develop their analytical models for evacuation as well as heighten the levels of preparedness of their public.

ERGO team attends Exercise Resilient Macaw [Nov-2008]

Two members of the ERGO team recently attended Exercise RESILIENT MACAW 08 at Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury. The annual military exercise is run over two days and one night to test procedures and how the staff work in HQ 143 (West Midlands) Brigade.

Military staff were given three scenarios to plan and respond to; the arrival of Avian Bird Flu in East Anglia, failing of the water supply in Shrewsbury and a fuel leak in Albrighton resulting in evacuation. All the events were in real time with Category 1 and 2 Responders present to bring the exercise to life. During the exercise different issues would occur such as a change of wind direction which the brigade would then have to factor into planning. Members of the ERGO team had the opportunity to visit the Brigade Operations Room, Exercise Control, Headquarters 5th Division Operations Room, and the MARCUS command post.

A Visitor from Hamburg, Germany [Sep-2008]

The Aston CRISIS Centre (The Centre for Research into Safety and Security) recently hosted a distinguished visitor from Germany Dr Peer Rechenbach who is in charge of emergency planning in Hamburg. Dr Rechenbach was formerly the Chief Fire Officer for Hamburg and has a PhD in engineering, lectures part time at Hamburg University on Electronic communications systems and is also frequently called on to head United Nations relief efforts - in this role he has led large teams in Africa, Indonesia and China. Dr Rechenbach was visiting Aston Business School as part of the £500,000 European Commission funded project Emergency Response by Government Organisations where he is Germany's representative on the Project Management Board. The ERGO team (pictured) will visit Hamburg to gather data on how they prepare for large evacuations as well as other visits planned throughout Europe and Japan over the next 2 years. ERGO Research team with visiting Dr Rechenbach The team is (L to R) Professor Duncan Shaw, Dr Pavel Albores, Dr Peer Rechenbach, Dr Patrick Tissington and doctoral researchers Susan Anson, Magesh Nagarajan and Paul Kailiponi.


Col. Andy McCombe's visit to Crisis centre [June-2008]

The Aston Crisis Centre (Centre for Research Into Safety and Security) was pleased to welcome Colonel Andy McCombe (British Army) to talk about how the military prepare to assist civilian emergency services and other government organisations in times of major emergency.

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