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Emergency Operations Center at the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre (AHA Centre) displaying the Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS), which is based on PDC’s DisasterAWARE platform designed to support early warning, multi hazard monitoring, and decision support.

Applying Science and Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction

For nearly 20 years, Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) has envisioned and helped to foster a safer, more secure world – where populations live in more disaster-resilient communities informed by science and technology, and are equipped with the right tools and information for decision-making.

In order to identify and close critical information gaps during times of crisis, PDC helps partners and clients to strengthen disaster management capabilities in numerous ways – conducting risk assessments, deploying early warning systems, providing training, and so forth. The Center routinely partners with others to advance shared goals of enhanced information access, management, analysis, and exchange throughout the disaster management cycle.

Through these efforts, PDC has developed and operates an integrated multi-hazard disaster monitoring and early warning platform, DisasterAWARE. At its core, DisasterAWARE continually monitors information feeds from authoritative meteorological, geological, and hazard data sources around the globe, automatically processing the incoming information to be visualized and presented to users of the various interfaces the platform supports. Additional hazards that do not meet guidelines for automated processing or that are not available in a form accessible to the platform are manually processed and posted. The results – visualized, geolocated hazards with continual updates – allow users to increase their awareness of risk and ongoing hazards, and make it possible for a wide range of qualified professionals to participate in critical information exchange.

The DisasterAWARE platform is the foundation for a number of applications that are currently used by over a million-and-a-half people around the world. This mature but ever-evolving technology incorporates best practices for data acquisition, hazard modeling, risk and vulnerability assessment, mapping, visualization, information sharing, and much more. The adaptability of DisasterAWARE allows the general public to access the same core disaster information and functionality as emergency managers, while also addressing the complex information and communications needs of those professionals.

DisasterAWARE for Professional Emergency Managers
To ensure that during times of disaster, critical information is always available, PDC hosts and operates versions of DisasterAWARE dedicated for use by disaster management professionals. One such system, known as EMOPS (Emergency Operations), provides users with the necessary information and functionality for critical decision-making before, during, and after disaster. This environment offers authorized users information-sharing capabilities for actionable information, such as situation reports and damage assessments, which can be made instantly available to intended audiences.

Similarly, PDC customizes versions of DisasterAWARE to support the specific needs of humanitarian assistance and disaster management agencies. For example, in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has established the Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre), as a central location for information sharing and coordination during times of disaster for its 10 Member States. Working with this transnational center, PDC developed and deployed the state-of-the-art Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS) powered by DisasterAWARE to enhance early warning, disaster monitoring, and information sharing capabilities. With DMRS in place, shared situational awareness is provided to ASEAN Member States, and regional disaster resilience is improved through enhanced emergency coordination among members and with the international community.

Other instances of DisasterAWARE have been created for Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC), Vietnam’s Disaster Management Center (DMC), and Indonesia’s disaster management agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, or BNPB). While multi-hazard in nature, the emphasis in Thailand has been on earthquake and tsunami warning, and in Vietnam on tropical storms and flooding; Indonesia, of course, faces volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, landslides, and floods, all of which they monitor by way of their national DisasterAWARE called InAWARE.

Following Typhoon Haiyan striking the Philippines in 2013, PDC worked with I/NGO’s to help visualize the impacts to the area (left). Following the 7.8 M earthquake in Nepal, PDC immediately began issuing situational awareness products and continued to support key national, international, and regional disaster management and humanitarian response organizations with decision support for response. Image courtesy of Pacific Disaster Center.

Following Typhoon Haiyan striking the Philippines in 2013, PDC worked with I/NGO’s to help visualize the impacts to the area (left). Following the 7.8 M earthquake in Nepal, PDC immediately began issuing situational awareness products and continued to support key national, international, and regional disaster management and humanitarian response organizations with decision support for response. Image courtesy of Pacific Disaster Center.

DisasterAWARE for the General Public
Anyone around the world can access DisasterAWARE by using PDC’s Internet-accessible Global Hazards Atlas (atlas.pdc.org). The Atlas offers users a way to view current and historical hazards and numerous demographic, environmental, and infrastructure-related information layers.

Another interface providing access to DisasterAWARE’s information is the freely-available mobile application, Disaster Alert. PDC’s Disaster Alert is an easy-to-use iOS and Android app with an Atlas-like map optimized for mobile screens. It displays and continually updates active hazards, and it provides on-the-go early warning and multi-hazard monitoring on a global scale.

Hazard information is also actively shared using social media on both Facebook and Twitter @DisasterAWARE.

Global Hazards Atlas, Disaster Alert, and dedicated social media outreach provides a comprehensive solution that can empower individuals and communities to achieve preparedness and resilience goals, both through increased information about risk and vulnerability and through up-to-the-minute situational awareness.

Training, Exercises, and Support
It is important for training and exercise to closely imitate the steps of response during a real disaster. That is why PDC is dedicated to helping partners strengthen resilience through hands-on training, exercises, and event simulation. Using the DisasterAWARE platform in a classroom setting, users can mimic a disaster to test and assess response plans.

PDC involvement in exercises can range from scenario development to exercise facilitation and evaluation, as well as work on hazard-specific mapping and modeling. The Center routinely participates with government agencies and military operations throughout all phases of exercise play, helping officials to rehearse response to events potentially causing significant damage or loss of lives and livelihoods.

Additionally, DisasterAWARE is used in many emergency operations centers (EOC) around the world, both for training/exercise and for response and recovery. DisasterAWARE is used to provide near real-time display of hazards and local-level GIS base data, and to supply reliable real-time hazard information, perhaps preventing a hazard from becoming a disaster or supporting response such that a disaster does not become a catastrophe. Through whatever pressures disaster managers face, DisasterAWARE systems continue providing a common operating picture, and act as a communication hub, promoting efficient interagency information sharing.

Frequently, PDC receives requests to produce particular situational awareness products for agencies of the U.S. and foreign governments, as well as UN offices and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations (I/NGO).

DisasterAWARE Saves Lives
As early as 1995-96, PDC was working to provide needed services to Hawaii State Civil Defense. Almost immediately, the mission of the Center began expanding and came to include the entire Pacific basin. Nearly fifteen years ago, the foundational technology that became DisasterAWARE was developed by PDC and deployed in the Caribbean. It was no accident when PDC’s technical achievements, network of data-providing partners, and growing resource of feedback from professional-users reached the point at which a fully integrated Disaster All-hazards Warning, Analysis and Risk Evaluation – DisasterAWARE – became possible.

That took place as PDC joined countless other agencies in respnding to The Great Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami (26 December 2004). U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye asked after Hurricane Iniki devastated the island of Kauai in 1991, “Couldn’t current technology have reduced this disaster in Hawaii?” The result of the Senator’s query was PDC. Then, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean disaster that killed at least 230,000 people, PDC asked, “Couldn’t our technology be customized in such a way that the impacts of such disasters can be reduced around the world?” The result this time was DisasterAWARE for the National Disaster Warning Center in Thailand, and the rapid globalization of PDC products and services.

What we might think of as “ordinary” hazards, as well as disasters on all scales are tracked in DisasterAWARE and professionals worldwide use the various interfaces to manage response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness.

DisasterAWARE has attracted a lot attention for its contributions to the response and recovery phases of 7.0 Magnitude earthquake in Haiti (2010); the 9.0 M earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear hazard in Japan (2011); Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Vietnam (2013); and the 7.8 M earthquake in Nepal (2015). On the other hand, there are also regional, national, and local authorities around the world using the system to make decisions and determine actions when faced with storms, wildfires, floods, and other hazards. Similarly, there are those 1.5 million members of the general public who monitor hazards for themselves and their families using the web-based Atlas and mobile Disaster Alert, also powered by DisasterAWARE.

Anyone interested in finding out more about PDC products and services or who wants to explore PDC support for an organization can contact PDC at info@pdc.org.

For more information, go to www.pdc.org

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Chris Chiesa is Deputy Executive Director for PDC.