Disaster

Community

Recovery

Dublin COBACORE Meeting, 3-5 June 2015

Martijn at Dublin Cobacore meeting June 2015

Members of the COBACORE Consortium met in European Union buildings in Dublin to discuss the progress of the project as it nears its last phase and final evaluation.

The External Advisory Board – Karen Neville of UCC, Tina Comes of the University of Agder and Daniel Kralik of the Slovakian Government – was present with feedback and commentary on the work to date.

Paul Tilanus of TNO who is coordinator of the project reminded the group that the COBACORE platform is ‘to support a way of working’, and is not just about the software. He used the example of the aftermath of the 2013 floods in Germany, when volunteers were keen to help but made dangerous decisions due to a lack of collaboration with professionals – the issue that COBACORE is working to address.

Martijn Neef led a discussion around how the COBACORE platform would be most effective for use in the early to late phases of post-crisis recovery. He said that ‘there is a natural tendency for people to offer support’ in a crisis, and professionals can offer resources to volunteers but first they must know who the volunteers are. The COBACORE platform could offer a system for identification of volunteers and the verification by professionals of people who offer their help, improving the safety and speed of assistance.

‘The gamechanger in closing the collaboration gaps [between volunteers, victims and professionals] has been the use of social media and mobile technology’ he continued. They have been vital in the community-based approach to information management.

He discussed the adaptability and potential of the COBACORE platform. Government organisations, NGOs, universities and emergency response groups could all benefit from its features as a medium for information gathering and communication.

Conor Woods of Spatialest demonstrated the platform to the group, and talked about the evolution of the software since COBACORE commenced in 2013, and the planned improvements and refinements to the platform during the remainder of the project.

Kees van Dongen took us through the findings of the second Intermediate Evaluation (IMEV 2) session which was in the AKNZ Centre in Ahrweiler, Germany on 12 -13 May. Emergency services groups from Germany and the Netherlands were involved in a role-play scenario to test the effectiveness of the platform in speeding up recovery from an earthquake. Members of the German and Netherlands Red Cross who are central partners within the COBACORE project were an important part of the exercise and were in Dublin to give us their perspective on the event.

Stephen Purcell of FAC discussed the ongoing dissemination of COBACORE, and what will happen once the project is finished through an agreed exploitation strategy. He outlined how the opportunities and issues for each of the partners may differ depending on their own background and area of expertise and the group discussed the development of a roadmap in this respect.

THURSDAY

Martin Haran of the University of Ulster started Thursday’s session with an update about the semantic matching system of the platform. He pointed out that needs must be prioritised on the platform by a weighting or ranking system to develop a more robust matching process. Currently the same importance is given to the need for a taxi as the need for urgent medical attention. It’s about situational awareness and understanding.

COBACORE’s new platform features were demonstrated by Francisco Fornes of Integrasys and Conor Woods. The format and objectives of the upcoming final evaluation of the project –  part of its planned evaluation cycle – was discussed amongst the group.

FRIDAY

On the last day of the meeting, the consortium members discussed the practicalities of the platform – what essential features it needed and how that would best fit with the expectations of the Final Evaluation (FINEV) participants and consequently end users.

Questions such as how people and needs would be verified by professionals, the role of community liaison teams and the digital angels who would be online to ensure that the capacities and needs were matched effectively were talked through.

COBACORE’s capability as a communication and information-gathering medium make it adaptable for the needs of different organisations. It has the potential to be used in many ways, for example as a teaching or training tool or for commercial use in managing large events.

Ultimately, how the platform, ideas and methodologies of the project are harnessed will depend on how the end users interpret and adapt the product.