OUTCOME OF 4TH EFRIM meeting Flooding

The 4th European First Responder Innovation Managers meeting took place on the 23rd and 24th of February 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Welcome by Carl Daniels, JESIP UK
Welcome and an introduction to the event to discuss various aspects of flood response, shared challenges and the potential for shared solutions.


Introduction to the EFRIM platform by Peter Duin, researcher at the Dutch National Police.

The EFRIM platform aims to build an informal EU network community for first responders to share information and gain understanding of common issues being faced by first responder organisations across Europe. This in turn could lead to multiple countries working together to develop share knowledge, consider solutions and stimulate innovation.

This peer-to-peer platform will create special interest groups around certain topics. These groups will then develop solutions and voice their needs to the policy makers in the EU and to the research centres and to industry.

Building the EFRIM platform is in the early stages and work is underway to establishing an appropriate structure and appropriate sustainable funding.

How do we respond to floods and what innovations have there been?

German approach by Ansgar Stening, Head of Resource Planning, Joint Operations, Civil protection and research, Rescue Department Gelsenkirchen.

History shows that Germany is faced with flooding threats coming from the sea (1962 Hamburg) and from the rivers like Rhine, Elbe and Oder. The 2013 flood threatened vast areas of about 7 (central) European countries causing severe social and economic damage of about 13 billion euros lost and about 4 billion of insured damage. The 2014 flood in Münster was an exceptional rainfall flood and the current thinking is this may be a new phenomenon caused by climate change.

The command structure of the first responder organisations in Germany is based on 16 federal states with the federal government in Berlin. The tasks of the Federation are carried out by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, by other ministries within their remit, by the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance and by the Federal Agency of Technical Relief (THW). In case of a flooding, districts and towns are responsible for on-site crisis management. Regional commissioners support the district and could take over the responsibility in case of a major incident but this is very rare. The fire service takes a dominant role in the case of a flooding but the majority of the fire service staff are volunteers. As the German police has a different structure than the fire service, there is a liaison officer coordinating the communication between the services.

Within the German civil protection coastal and inland flood protection are the main drivers. Coastal and inland flood protections have a different approach, have a different responsibility and have different views. In Germany there is no centrally directed training on flood protection and states have their own training. The training is based on a general approach.
In the technical approach (large) pump logistics and sandbag logistics play a dominant role. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) can assist with their large pump systems.

Recent floods provided some notable practice. As fire service staff are volunteers, the duration of the floods caused some challenges having to replace volunteers because they had to return to their main jobs. The gathering of information via social media was faster than via official bodies. Operating with mobile command teams/forces worked very well. Incorporating spontaneous helpers raised some crucial questions about how long they can do the work, which tasks can they do and what is needed by the organizations and how best to inform them?

English approach by Nick O’Key

Nick O’key is Area Manager responsible for Risk Management at Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service. Cumbria is a rural county and one of the most sparsely populated in the United Kingdom.

At the end of 2015 the UK experienced the effects of 4 storms in close succession. On 5 December, the Met Office issued a red severe weather warning for rain in Cumbria, with 150 millimetres (5.9 in) to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) expected in some places. This storm was given the name Desmond.

The exceptional heavy rain led to the fire and rescue service deploying a range of flood protection measures including sandbags, 6 high volume pumps (from other parts of the country), 12 type B boats. They used a coordination centre in a local town (Penrith). The news made national headlines and there was a lot of press coverage. Authorities used the media to help reassure the public they were doing everything they could to get the floods under control but also had to call in the army and other civil protection organizations such as the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, Bay Search and Rescue service, the Salvation Army and 4×4 volunteers.

In Cumbria over 7000 properties were flooded, one man lost his life and about 18,132 properties were without power. Around 1000 sheep were lost and two bridges washed away which caused significant damage to the main road that runs through the county. Road diversions had to be set up causing a lot of disruption to local residents and the emergency services. Overall the total cost of public sector is currently estimated at £500 million pounds.

The first responder organisations were very happy with the help of the local resilience forum who provided help in a number of ways. . One of the challenges was the number of volunteers that wanted to help along with boats to rescue people, however, there was no way to know if these people were equipped properly and may end up needed rescuing themselves. It was difficult to manage these well-intentioned individuals.

A new system was used during the flood response called SARCAL. This system was developed by the Coastguard and allows resources to be deployed more effectively and provides a continual log of activity and resources.  Use of SARCAL led to more efficient deployment of resources.

Dutch approach by Marcel Matthijsse, Managing director “National Project water crisises and evacuation”
After extensive flooding in 1953 which resulted in 1836 casualties, the Dutch government developed the Delta Plan to shorten the coastline and strengthen the dikes. This plan consisted of a series of construction projects in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine and Meuse Scheldt delta from the sea.

Since 1953, the land protected by this work has been built on and communities established on the land, but this has increased levels of vulnerability in this area due to an increase in citizens with less flood awareness. In addition there are interdependent systems and a very complex society. Increased occurrences of flooding along with the latest research has raised awareness of the potential damage caused by floods (health, economy, society and ecology) within the civil protection and infra organizations. They have now started to better prepare for floods. One of the major issues is the need to raise the awareness amongst the Dutch population and improve the resilience.

In the Project Water and Evacuation the Safety Region Councils, the Ministry of Safety and Justice along with the Steering committee of Water Crises and Flooding work together. This project focuses on analysing the direct and indirect risks in the vulnerable areas, they have developed a strategic evacuation decision process, information exchange protocols, increasing self-reliance and developing a common language.

Central in the risk assessment is the multi-layer safety approach. Preventing flooding by enforcing the dikes is the first layer. Realizing 100% prevention is not possible, smart designing of the infrastructure can help to deal with the event of a flood in very extreme conditions and will lower the damage. The third layer is developing an emergency management plan now, which will help authorities decision making when evacuating people either from above (via their attics or by helicopter) or at ground level. If the plan is followed it is anticipated the effects of the flood will be reduced. Part of the emergency management is raising the awareness for flooding and improving the resilience of the community.

The role of the UK Military in flood response & recovery, UK Military Wing Commander Rich Langley OBE RAF

In the UK, military support for civil emergencies can be requested by the local authorities. The standing Joint Commander (SJC) is responsible for command of Ministry of Defence resources when they are deployed to respond to national crisis. Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) is the collective term used by the Ministry of Defence referring to the operational deployment of the armed forces of the United Kingdom. This support of the civilian authorities helps in areas such as assistance in emergency situations and the maintenance of public order. The military can play a role in preparation, during and with the recovery from flooding.

The military can provide other capabilities such as disposal of explosives, stand by battalions, imagery and aircraft, niche capabilities (helicopters) and other capabilities like divers.  The task of the military is determined in cooperation with the local community, through the local authorities, central government and the Ministry of Defence.

During the recent flooding, the presence of the military was of interest to the national media. This continued focus by the media meant there was awareness of the flooding and its affects were known amongst the public and it did help to ensure further assistance was provided with the recovery operations.

Keith Strickland AD Resilience Training & Doctrine UK Civil Contingencies Secretariat

Making decisions in the early stages of a multi-agency incident is essential and requires reliable information. Sometimes not all the relevant information is available in the early stages of an incident and even then information has to be verified before it can be relied upon. However, when information about the incident is confirmed, it’s important that all relevant parties are aware as quickly as possible. This is why establishing a Common Operating Picture (COP) is important.
Keith discussed the challenges for staff in making decisions about emergency response based on a common operating picture. How many factors can affect what commanders do in these situations until information is verified and fully understood by all.
He discussed that technology can help in terms of gathering or providing information but the key part has to be the interpretation of all information by the people involved in the response. A common platform for information sharing is useful but technology alone cannot be relied upon. Keith provided many examples where language and the incorrect interpretation of it, can actually be a barrier to establishing shared situational awareness. This is not necessarily the fault of an individual or group of individuals but we have to remember the human factor when interpreting data.

Using vague words, abbreviations, unclear graphical representations and sharing information without a clear context can make the process of establishing shared situational awareness very difficult.
As part of the work the Cabinet Office have done to encourage information sharing across communities in the UK, it has developed a platform that can be used to help emergency services and others involved in community resilience. It is called ResilienceDirect and Keith discussed how part of this tool can be used to help responders get an individual situational awareness to a shared situational awareness with a focus on things like terminology, procedures and improved communication. In this process there is a shift from focussing on IT and technology towards people/organisations. In summary it is important to remember that technology and data are enablers, but people and communication between them add meaning.

Information Sharing in a crisis, ResilienceDirect, Luana Avagliano

ResilienceDirect is an online network that enables civil protection practitioners to work together – across geographical and organisational boundaries – during the preparation, response and recovery phases of an event or emergency.

During the Cumbria flooding, ResilienceDirect was used to share information, which was especially useful where bridges were closed and where infrastructure such as main roads were destroyed. The system was able to use a mapping facility to allow local authorities to plan diversions where there were closed roads or bridges. This system also provides information on the extent of the floods including addresses via its aerial images.

The information the system can provide is very useful for local response teams who have to report into the national Government committee that meets when there are national emergencies in the UK. The system can help ensure all involved have a shared understanding about what is happening which helps build a common operational picture and make appropriate response plans.

Facilitated Discussion Flooding – Common Lessons and a way forward, Megan Anderson, University of Leiden

During a workshop Megan Anderson asked the participants to fill in the value proposition canvas model indicating the problem that needs to be solved, the “customers” pain and “the customers” gain. On the other hand the participants could address what EFRIM could do for them, how EFRIM could address the challenges and help to create a gain.

From the discussion, it became apparent some key innovation areas in EU flood management include improved management and coordination strategies for volunteers and third party organisations, better outreach strategies for raising awareness among public and improved evacuation management strategies.

There is significant overlap in terms of challenges in flood response across the UK, Germany and The Netherlands. These challenges include sharing information across organisations and regions, in terms of day-to-day operations and real-time response phases; integration of volunteer groups and ‘spontaneous helpers’ and raising awareness among the public; keeping the public engaged and prepared in between disasters.

Some countries had developed some notable practice with systems or processes to address certain challenge areas. These were of interest and potential inspiration to other countries. For example, Germany has struggled with managing ‘spontaneous volunteers’. The UK has developed an approach to address this in the UK, which provided the German representatives attending with inspiration for a similar volunteer management framework. The Joint Organisational Learning (JOL) concept (launched in the UK in 2015) and its supporting structures and technology were of interest to representatives from other countries struggling with similar issues of failing to learn from past incidents.

EFRIM could be particularly valuable as a mechanism for sharing notable practice and inspiration, and directly linking various stakeholders across particular interest areas. The key benefits that EFRIM could develop include:

  • building connection and coordination of stakeholders both online (website, social media platform)
  • offline network (conferences, networking opportunities, workshops for end-users)
  • facilitation of document/template sharing and compilation of EU notable practice
  • support for calls for funding for end-user driven innovation projects.

Digital technology aiding interoperability, Gavin Young EBY Design

EBY is a design agency helping companies and organizations with connecting their clients to their audience by their design services, develop digital products for effective communication and communicate brand values by providing marketing and PR services.

  • After the initial two year programme, the JESIP website needed re-focus. They had produced the guidance (Joint Doctrine), a range of supporting products and information over the first two years and needed those products to be the focal point of the website.
  • The website and the new mobile app should communicate the five principles of joint working and supporting models. EBY developed an intuitive, functional website communicating the JESIP brand.
    JESIP needed to ensure a broad range of people working in emergency response could understand and apply the guidance JESIP had produced. If JESIP is used by all emergency responders then it would help provide the public with an improved multi-agency response to incidents.

EBY developed a mobile app for JESIP to broaden awareness about JESIP, act as a prompt for staff dealing with incidents and be used as part of refresher knowledge after training.

Why is organisational learning important – why & how can we learn across Europe? Hugh Deeming, Research consultant, HD Research

The aim of the Embrace project is to build resilience to disasters amongst communities in Europe. Resilience can been seen as the capacity of social, economic and environment systems to cope with a hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity and structure, while also maintaining the capacity for adaptation learning and transformation.

Within the context of change and disturbance the EMBRACE team developed a disaster risk governance model based on learning (e.g. risk/loss perception, critical reflection), actions (e.g. civil protection and social protection) resources and capacities (e.g. Financial physical and human). A report into major incidents in the UK written (by Dr Pollock) showed that it is important to have a system to ensure that lessons are learned on an on-going process and staff trained in changes required.

The flooding in the North of England showed that the communities were well prepared and flood-aware because of past flood events and some property was saved. Support teams were praised by their ability to operate largely autonomously and connect people to resources.

The Embrace team adapted the three loops of learning:

  • are we doing things right?
  • Are we doing the right things?
  • Is the defined “right way “becoming too forceful?

It developed support tools for triple-loop learning. Embrace emphasize on on-going process of learning both in formal and informal networks.

How JESIP has developed Joint Organisational Learning (JOL) for the UK Brian Welsh, Area Manager. JESIP – FRS Senior User – Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

As part of JESIP developed to improve multi-agency response in the UK, a new Joint Organisational Learning (JOL) process and application were developed. It has been recognised that in the past emergency services in the UK have not acted on lessons identified from many past incidents and emergencies. It has also been noted that there is not point in reviewing events from the past unless you intend to act on any issues identified.
JESIP launched JOL in 2015 and identified a single point of contact in each service to ensure that can submit any issues they identify following involvement in multi-agency response. The intention is to ensure joint working amongst emergency services, other response organisations and partner agencies can continually improve.  Services can submit learning onto JOL where all the lessons are monitored, carefully analysed and risk assessed against the probability of the issue occurring again and its impact.
Based on this input the interoperability board approves actions to be embedded onto service policy, procedures or training activities. JESIP has an assurance mechanism to confirm change has occurred.

Examples of the JOL activities are sharing identified lessons, influencing key changes to command and control at counter terrorism incidents and an active involvement of JESIP in a number of recent major incident debriefs to ensure any learning is captured.

How could EFRIM help? Potential funding sources – Horizon 2020 Dirk Oberhagemann, German Fire Protection Association

EFRIM is preparing a Horizon2020 network proposal for funding in response to a recent call for bids for funding. Dirk Oberhagemann and Michiel Poppink will write this proposal. It will be sent out to the EFRIM community with the invitation to comment and support the proposal.

From the information provided by the EU and comparing it with the intentions for EFRIM, there are some challenges, which need to be addressed. The call is focussed on practitioners in the same discipline, which is not a realistic approach due to the fact that in case of an incident all three services are involved. Instead of positioning the end-users in the same discipline like only fire fighters or police or paramedics, the proposal will be positioned as task oriented first responder organisation working from one control centre dealing with 3 service teams. The call asks for proposals monitoring research and innovation projects. The EFRIM proposal would want to see a solution provided and then being implemented.

It is suggested that the EFRIM proposal will try to ensure our requirements are met within the scope of the definition of the call. The output will be broader then only technical innovations and reports but may include guidelines and/or requirements for social innovation projects. As risks are often interconnected, the objective of EFRIM is to concentrate on natural risks and interconnected failures.

EFRIM – how can it help? – Michiel Poppink, Dutch Safety Institute
The innovation landscape of the European first responders is highly fragmented and dominated by commercial organisations and research organisations. The challenges first responder organisations are faced with are increasingly common from country to country while budgets are declining.
In addition, the first responder organisations are underrepresented in the European Union.
Therefore several first responder organisations took the initiative to use the collective experience by building a European platform for end users/practitioners (EFRIM). By coming together as a forum, the intentions and ambitions of the practitioners can be aligned and special interest groups can be developed around certain themes like flooding, terrorism and resilience.
Based on the outcome of the meetings of the special interest groups, the needs of the first responders can be voiced to the European Commission. EFRIM focuses on sharing knowledge and learning, identifying common problems and developing end user focused (EU) projects. EFRIM will co-ordinate these special interest groups, liaise with EU departments and facilitate funding bids.

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