Trinity management tool to aid response to disasters

Emergency services in Ireland and elsewhere could turn to Facebook and other social media to tackle natural and manmade disasters.

Trinity management tool to aid response to disasters

An online emergency management tool developed at Trinity College in Dublin has already been adopted in Italy and is being tested in Germany and Britain.

Trinity researchers have led development of a prototype social media monitoring system that aids emergency response agencies during disasters, using content from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

The Slándáil Emergency Management System — Security System for language and image analysis — integrates social media input into disaster management control room software, incorporating advances in text and image analytics to aid response teams during major emergencies.

The system works in three languages — English, German, and Italian.

Slándáil was developed by a collaborative group led by researchers from the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity.

It is the fruit of the three-year ‘Project Slándáil’ sponsored by the EU’s Framework Programme 7.

Project co-ordinator and professor of computer science at Trinity, Khurshid Ahmad, said that he and his team are delighted with its success, explaining that the internet enables the rapid dissemination information via social media.

He said that warnings about major disasters and efforts to recover from them would involve the use of textual, visual and audio information.

“The excellent work carried out by national disaster and emergency management experts and operatives relies on teams of people examining and synthesising information from vast numbers of documents on very short, sometimes evolving, time scales,” said Prof Ahmad.

“Yet monitoring the sheer volume of information propagated via social media exceeds the limits of any possible unaided human professional.

"We have produced a prototype solution that allows these teams to drown out the unhelpful ‘noise’ and instead systematically capture useful information spread via social media to assist disaster management as efficiently as possible.

“Whether they are responding to a flash flood or a dangerous man-made disturbance, the rapid provision of critical information from ‘eyes on the ground’ should help save lives.”

The system has been successfully evaluated by the gardaí and the PSNI as well as the German armed forces in Saxony and civil protection authorities in Italy.

It has also been tested by Irish media communications experts Stillwater Communications.

Emergency management teams in northern Italy are using a prototype version of the social media monitor, and the objective is to carry out live tests with Irish emergency management agencies by the end of 2017.

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