Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks
HNPW 2024 (29 April - 10 May 2024)
          


 
Session title: 20 years of GDACS: Building on the past to improve the future
Organizer(s): OCHA, JRC/ECHO, UNOSAT
7 May 24 16:00-17:30   (Pleniere E)
 
Executive Summary


The meeting "20 years of GDACS: Building on the past to improve the future" was held in connection with the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW in Geneva on 7 May in a hybrid format. The meeting was chaired by Ms. Marzia Santini, EC/JRC with the purpose to reflect on key achievements in the last 20 years and present priorities for the future of the system. The meeting was attended by 36 face-to-face and 47 remote participants.

Opening statements were made by: 

  1. Sarah Muscroft, Chief Response Support Branch, OCHA Geneva
  2. Mr. Tom De Groeve, Head of the Disaster Risk Management Unit, JRC
  3. Ms. Olimpia Imperiali, Deputy Head of the Situational Awareness Sector, ECHO
  4. Mr. Luca Dell’Oro, Chief, Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience Section, UNOSAT.

In their opening remarks, the speakers congratulated GDACS to its 20th anniversary, and acknowledged that the success of the system was achieved through continued good collaboration among GDACS service providers and the constructive feedback from disaster managers in Member States, regional organizations and emergency response teams, and its partnerships with multiple scientific institutions. The fact that GDACS today has 80,000 subscribers with a steady growth confirms the quality and relevance of its services provided in the first phase after major sudden onset disasters. They reiterated that GDACS multi-hazard early warning system in seven different hazards and its coordination platforms Virtual OSOCCC and Satellite Mapping Coordination System has evolved into a unique platform which is used widely for situational awareness and decision support among international actors. While the main GDACS services are provided by ECHO/JRC, OCHA and UNOSAT, other partners and disaster managers worldwide contributed to the success of the system through provision of authoritative data, introducing and testing the platform in regional disaster response exercises, and regularly providing constructive feedback for improvements. For the future, it is felt that GDACS should be further institutionalized and possibly linked with global initiatives. 

After the opening statements, a short video summarizing GDACS services was shown (open the video).

The meeting continued by brief statements of previous GDACS Chairpersons:

Mr. Thomas Peter (chaired GDACS meetings from 2005 to 2010) summarized the success of GDACS in five milestones:

  1. Identification of a clear scope and purpose, filling the information and coordination gap in the first disaster phase without duplicating other initiatives.
  2. Creating a structure and organize regular meetings (core group bi-monthly and yearly stakeholder meetings) to develop a work plan and review progress made.
  3. Agree on standards to synchronize applications and databases from GDACS partners (GLIDE and RSS) and develop a joint web portal as one-stop-shop.
  4. Enable the dialogue among software engineers, satellite data providers, mappers, scientists, disaster managers, all of whom use different terminology, with varying understanding of challenges and needs in the early disaster response phase.
  5. Collaborate with regional organizations and global networks (e.g. UCPM, INSARAG) to introduce, practice, collect feedback, and improve GDACS services in disasters response exercises.

Mr. Peter Billing, ECHO, retired (GDACS Chairman from 2010 to 2014) described the success of GDACS in the ability to stay abreast of changing technologies and evolving dynamics of international disaster response. In his views, the five key strengths of GDACS lie in:

  1. Simplicity red/yellow/green intuitive and constantly adapted.
  2. Multi-hazard alert and early warning system providing a one-stop-shop platform for alerts, impact and risk analysis, information exchange, coordination, and satellite mapping.
  3. Designed as a system of systems, incorporating research solutions from different organizations in cost effective and sustainable manner.
  4. Established and maintained excellent cooperation between the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and the United Nations (OCHA, WMO, IMO, and UNOSAT)
  5. Lasting commitment and enthusiasm by representatives of the partner organizations

Col. Artavazd Davtyan, Armenia (GDAC Chairman from 2014 to 2019) congratulated all parties for the success and progress made of GDACS, which was achieved together. In his view, GDACS identified early on the need for timely targeted and coordinated global action. GDACS enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of disaster response through cutting-edge technology, rigorous data analysis, and a proactive approach to disaster alerts. GDACS has built bridges, connecting governments, international agencies, communities, and the private sector, ensuring that when disaster strikes, all are ready to act, united in purpose and action. He praised the good collaboration and innovation. The 2014 GDACS meeting in Armenia is a testament of that spirit. He sees the future of GDACS promising and demanding and hopes that the GDACS principles that have guided GDACS since its inception be retained: solidarity, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Mr. Alessandro Annunziato, EC/JRC, retired (GDACS Chairman from 2019 - 2023) reminded of key persons in the early days of GDACS: Mr. Peter Billing, ECHO, who had the idea and vision, Mr. Tom de Groeve, JRC, introduced scientific open data (e.g. USGS) for modeling impact estimations, Mr. Pierluigi Soddu, Italian Civil Protection, influenced the simple presentation of scientific data, and Thomas Peter, OCHA, advocating for the relevance of GDACS services for the international community, and Ms. Marzia Santini, the current GDACS Chair, who will lead GDACS into the future. For the future, Mr. Annunziato sees the need to further improve hazard early waring in GDACS with cascading effects, tsunami, and surge storm inundation models, and possibly logistics models using Virtual OSOCC and other sources to track ongoing operations. In his view, the main challenge ahead remains qualification of data in all hazards.

Ms. Marzia Santini introduced the vision for the future for GDACS. There is a need to strengthen the network of scientific partners, building on the good example of the partnerships with WMO regarding meteorological data, to work equally efficiently with scientific partners to improve forecasts and impact estimations in all seven hazards. GDACS impact analysis should be enhanced to also include the implication of events. There is a need for better documentation of GDACS services and to improve the GDACS portal in terms of contents and navigation experience for users. Finally, GDACS will explore if open-source data can be used to include information about political situation and security, etc. in the impact estimations. It is planned to make improvements to all GDACS services using latest technologies and AI.

Mr. Dario Masante, JRC, presented the results of the GDACS survey of 2023, which analyzed type of GDACS users, reason for use, perceived quality and relevance services, and user expectations for the future. In summary, it was found that GDACS is widely used mainly by generalists for situational awareness and decision support across all hazard types. The main areas for improvement were user-interface of the platform and a lack of training and guidance material. The strengths of GDACS were described as good reputation, quality and global scope of its products and services. Overall, GDACS services are considered useful and relevant. 

Ms. Ida Svendsen, UNOSAT, provided a brief update of the Satellite Mapping Coordination System (SMCS). The latest version provides an improved interface for real time coordination of mapping providers, indicating who is working on what and where, with a graphic indication of the Area of Interest (AOI). The application provides information about the maps being prepared and a link to download final products. The new version has an automatic integration of data from EU Space Agency and the International Charter Space and Major Disaster. The integration of  the API form Copernicus EMS and the Charter Operational System is a benchmark for SMCS, as we have compiled the information into one interactive interface, that easily can be accessed by the users.

Ms. Chiara Proietti, JRC, provided a brief update of plans to improve of the Multi Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS), which currently provides forecasts and impact estimations automatically (earthquake tsunamis), semi-automatically (floods, forest fires), and "manually" based on expert analysis (volcanoes, droughts). It is planned to automatize the impact estimation for all hazards, where possible. The automatic estimation of anticipated international action for forest fires based can be achieved though analysis of historic data. For volcanic eruptions automatic estimations are being tested via the combined use of authoritative data from key partners such as ICAO volcanic ash advisor and from scientific networks such as MIROVA and MOUNTS. Moreover, forecast-based alerts for floods are planned using COPERNICUS satellite data, analyzing thresholds based on population exposure. Flood impact estimation can be further enhanced with analysis of dam stability. Tropical Cyclone estimations will be improved in cooperation with WCM, WMO, and MeteoSwiss, by including the impact of storm wind, rain, and storm-surge in the analysis.


Main achievements

  • The meeting acknowledged the success of GDACS after 20 years of existence, which was achieved through continued good collaboration among GDACS service providers and the constructive feedback from disaster managers in Member States, regional organizations, emergency response teams, and partnerships with scientific institutions.
  • 80,000 subscribers and the steady increase of users confirms the quality and relevance of GDACS services in the first phase of sudden onset disasters.
  • The usefulness and relevance of GDACS services was also confirmed in the GDACS user survey of 2023.
  • With its multi-hazard early warning system covering seven hazards, and the coordination platforms Virtual OSOCCC and Satellite Mapping Coordination System, GDACS provides a unique platform that is widely used by international actors for situational awareness and decision support.
  • The Satellite Mapping Coordination System (SMCS) has been further improved with a graphic indication of the Area of Interest (AOI) and a link to download final products. Data from EU Space Agency and the International Charter Space are automatically integrated into the SMCS.

 
OutcomesFollowup

  • GDACS will further strengthen the network of scientific partners.
  • The Multi Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS) will automatize the impact estimation for all hazards and include the implication of disaster events.
  • It is planned to automatize the analysis of volcanic eruptions with authoritative data from ICAO volcanic ash advisor and scientific networks such as MIROVA and MOUNTS. 
  • Forecast-based alerts for floods are are foreseen to use COPERNICUS satellite data and analyze population exposure and dam stability.
  • Tropical Cyclone estimations will be improved in cooperation with WCM, WMO, and MeteoSwiss to include the impact of storm wind, rain, and storm-surge.
  • Documentation of GDACS services will be developed and the GDACS portal will be improved in terms of contents and navigation experience
  • GDACS will explore the use of open-source data to include information about political situation and security in the impact estimations.

 
Session participants
 
Participants - 7 May 24 14:00-15:30: 55
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