ERGO team presents findings in Hamburg

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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.