May 12, 2016

PHAROS – successful demonstration of a system solution for catastrophe management during forest fires in Catalonia

12 May 2016

Estimated Article Reading Time: 2 min.

The Earth trembles, rivers burst their banks and tsunamis destroy coastal regions. Natural and man-made disasters make our high technology society ever more sensitive. The current disaster management systems have the drawback that they cannot be flexibly adapted to the respective situation. Hazards and disasters have a similar course but are nevertheless different. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has developed a system that takes this into account. PHAROS (Project on a Multi-Hazard Open Platform for Satellite Based Downstream Services) supports crisis managers, operations managers and relief workers in every phase of disaster response. The system is built as an open service platform and can be flexibly adapted to the circumstances at hand. Earth observation data, measurements from sensors, simulation tools and communication technologies are combined in a single platform.

All-rounder PHAROS: arrangement of situation reports, decision-making tools, communications platform

With PHAROS, situational data can be comprehensively recorded, collected, processed and distributed. It serves as a communication platform for the various crisis task forces, and can also be used to warn the local population. Simulation modules integrated into PHAROS can show how a disaster (for example a forest fire) will develop. A support system for decision making, PHAROS assists operation managers in making decisions and in planning and developing measures for fighting the fire or protecting the population. Sources of information are flexibly integrated into the system. Satellites provide up-to-date, large-scale maps and detect things such as pockets of fire through the smoke in otherwise inaccessible dangerous areas. GPS devices show the locations of the aid workers on site; local land registries provide information on existing infrastructures and safety hazards. The data and sensor information is complemented with simulation-based analyses and predictions, such as weather and propagation models. The overall view provided by this information enables endangered properties and infrastructures to be identified in good time and counter-measures to be implemented.

Strength of the modular system demonstrated under real conditions

The special feature of the system is its holistic approach and modularity. As a result of this, PHAROS can easily be adapted to different catastrophe scenarios using new modules, and additional sources of information can quickly be added. To demonstrate PHAROS, a natural disaster that frequently occurs in Europe was selected, which also enables an effective simulation in the context of a practice drill. In early March, three forest fires were ignited in a controlled manner in Solsona, Spain, to test PHAROS and the local task forces under real conditions

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