Under the volcano: Aston University reports on Iceland’s evacuation preparedness

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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.

Their recommendations focused on more efficient and effective methods to analyse and prepare for mass evacuation. These include:


(1) Preparing the public through marketing evacuation preparedness.

(2) Disseminating a warning message – using a simulation model to evaluate policy options.

(3) Traffic management during evacuations – to model bottlenecks in the road networks and plan for congestion management strategies.

(4) Streamlining evacuee registration process and shelter management plans – to collect the registration details of evacuees in a centralised database that could help families to locate relatives that are registered at another evacuation shelter.

(5) Contingency planning for evacuation shelters – to identify additional shelter locations as a contingency plan in case the existing shelters are not available.

(6) Supporting decision makers to assess the information and make the evacuation decision.

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.”

The ERGO project is organised with the support of the Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism and other Security-related Risks Programme - European Commission - Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security.