Crisis and Disaster Services

Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information at the German Aerospace Center (DLR)

In the event of a natural disaster, it is especially important that aid workers, such as those from the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), can organize themselves quickly on site without putting themselves in danger. Thanks to the help of the Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) of the German Aerospace Center, the volunteers can get a picture of the location through current satellite images of the affected areas before arriving on site. This allows them to pinpoint a suitable location for victim care or evacuate areas in a timely manner. Furthermore, the images help to determine the best route to the affected area. Researchers at the Institute of Optical Sensor Systems plan to retrofit the satellites with a new communication system that will make the data accessible from all over the world, so that the rescuers will be able to access the information more quickly in the future. This collaboration between DLR and THW exemplifies the importance of sharing technologies, knowledge, and findings. It opens up new perspectives in the field of disaster control and will hopefully set an example for other countries.


Earthquake Hazard: The Central Role of the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ)

To assess the impact of earthquakes on society, GFZ works closely with earthquake engineers and produces earthquake zoning maps for earthquake-resistant construction and earthquake safety analyses. The zoning maps show where regular buildings, chemical plants, and especially hydraulic structures such as reservoirs or dams should be built and where not. The maps and safety analyses are prepared based on corresponding DIN standards or European construction standards. GFZ’s DIN activities for regular buildings are directly integrated into the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). In addition to being socially relevant, this work is also relevant for the economy, for instance by restricting the use of building materials and designs.

One result of this work is the European Macroseismic Scale that was developed at GFZ and is used worldwide as the standard work for intensity and risk assessment. Another example is the seismic hazard maps for the D-A-CH nations (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). The maps were used as the foundation for the earthquake zone map of the EUROCODE 8 National Application Document (“Design of structures for earthquake resistance”). This is now used for the latest version of the German earthquake construction standard DIN 4149 (2005) and for engineering applications in Switzerland and Austria.


“Accident Consequences” Working Group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Since 2010, the “Unfallfolgen” (Accident Consequences) working group has been developing and researching methods and tools to support decision makers in managing and controlling major crisis events. Its activities focus on emergency responses after nuclear accidents and on emergency prevention. Protecting critical infrastructures such as power, water, and food supply, developing IT, telecommunication, and transportation technology, and managing large-scale emergencies are at the forefront of these efforts. The working group is devising an IT-based decision aid that proposes measures to control negative effects, handle breakdowns, and support comprehensive action. The scientists are continuously exchanging experience with users in order to provide easy-to-use interfaces for the IT systems or application-oriented presentations of their results, for example.

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