Facilitating EU pre-Standardisation process Through streamlining and vAlidating inTeroperability in systems and procEdures involved in the crisis management cYcle
Authors: Souzanna Sofou, Spyros Athanasiadis, Georgios Sakkas, Dario Ruiz, Giannis Chasiotis, Leonidas Perlepes, Ilias Gkotsis, Alessia Golfetti, Katerina Valouma, Gabriel Pestana, Tiago Rocha da Silva, Panagiotis Michalis, Danai Kazantzidou-Firtinidou
The STRATEGY project is coming to an end this month, and we would like to take this opportunity to share our outputs. The ultimate goal of the project was to strengthen the resilience of the European Union against many types of natural & man-made disasters, by ensuring first responders’ safety and empowering their operational capacity through standardisation. To do this, researchers within the project created CEN Workshop Agreements (CWAs) and Technical Specifications (TSs), which may go on to be adopted as standards across the EU. STRATEGY partners completed and published 11 CEN Workshop Agreements (CWAs) and 2 Technical Specifications for eight Streams within Crisis Management. The context of each CWA, their strengths, and opportunities for wider adoption are briefly described below, along with the positive impacts they are expected to have.
Stream 1: Search and Rescue
For Stream 1, the CWA provides the Requirements for acquiring digital information from victims during Search and Rescue Operations and mass casualty incidents (CWA 18004:2023). The use of this is expected to lead to enhanced interoperability and cross-border operations on an EU level, and more efficient information exchange between different agencies.
The direct beneficiaries, and particularly the regional, national & international emergency responders’ authorities and the Public Safety Agencies, will benefit from enhanced cross boundary collaborations between different authorities, and therefore improved decision support and better use of resources.
Stream 2: Critical Infrastructure Protection
For Stream 2, two CWAs have been prepared. The CWA for Incident situational reporting for CI (CWA 18024:2023) provides requirements and recommendations for a common set of information, datatypes and terms to be reported by the affected CIs to national or local coordination centres, or control rooms of emergency services, or the competent authorities. Faster exchange of useful and reliable incident and impact related information is expected by this CWA adoption, along with collaborative disaster management on a national and an EU-level.
An important opportunity for the wider adoption of this CWA is the Directive 2022/2557 on resilience of critical entities; Alignment of Member States with this Directive requires notification of the competent authorities by the critical entities in case of incidents that disrupt the provision of essential services.
The second CWA of Stream 2 is the Semantic layer definition and suitability of EDXL-CAP and EDXL-SitRep standards for crisis management in Critical Infrastructures (CWA 18028:2023), which provides an evaluation of the suitability of these standards for the automatic processing of information during a crisis. The strong point of this CWA is that it is validated against the operational needs of firefighters, police and medical institutions. Also, it provides the Semantic layer definition, which is compatible with many already existing standards and developed jointly with the OASIS Open Emergency Management Technical Committee, developers of the EDXL set of standards. This CWA opens the way to create a standardization ecosystem of the components of command-and-control centers.
Stream 3: Response Planning
For Stream 3, the CWA concerns the development of a harmonized approach for crisis management that can be used by stakeholders to elaborate emergency response plans. The approach is based on a homogenous core structure/template that is further adaptable to specific hazard types, as per guidelines, and is also provided as part of the pre-standardisation activity in discussion.
The Emergency Response Plan (CWA 18018:2023) template has been tested in a collaborative response environment, showcasing its benefits on interoperability and response efficiency. Better use of resources, reduced response time & operational costs, and improved decision support capacity are among the main benefits expected for First Responders, medical and paramedical personnel.
Stream 4: Command and Control
For Stream 4, one of the CWAs prepared is the CWA on forest fire incident management symbology (CWA 18017:2023). This symbology will enable the visual communication of the operational and field information that fire commanders exchange during firefighting operations, displayed on a geographical background, to effectively support the coordination and planning of the response activities. This is especially useful in cross border collaboration or in cases of activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, where modules are sent from different countries, and therefore language barriers are often a problem.
The second CWA, Collaborative emergency response – Common addressing format and emergency identification protocol (CWA 18013:2023) specifies a hierarchical naming system for public and private safety agencies and emergency authorities. It covers a common addressing format to be used by authorities, which uniquely identifies the agencies and their teams/departments, enabling the quick and easy selection of the agencies that should share a specific piece of information. Inter-connectedness and cooperation between different public safety agencies and rescue teams is essential for an effective crisis management response.
Stream 5: Early Warning and Rapid Damage Assessment
For Stream 5, two CWAs have been prepared. The CWA on Requirements and recommendations for social media early warning messages in crisis and disaster management (CWA 18005:2023) provides a set of recommendations for the message preparation, design and visualization of social media early warning messages and notifications in crisis and disaster management. These are proposed to be adopted by alerting authorities and emergencies services in charge of the communication towards the public during an emergency. The adoption of this CWA can promote consistency in messaging across different organisations and provide a standardised way to design social media warning messages for alerting citizens during emergencies.
Regarding the second CWA of this Stream, Exchanging of building and infrastructure damage information with Common Alerting Protocol (CWA 18022:2023), this concerns the specification of a protocol that aims to cover the dissemination of the status of buildings and/or infrastructure, after the occurrence of a natural hazard or a man-made incident, in a form of an alert. The related results/alerts are communicated to the command-and-control centres of the agencies that manage the emergency. Among its strong points are the establishment of a formalized way to report (describe and disseminate) promptly and automatically transfer information. The CWA also supports the coordinated response and recovery of multiple services involved in the response and recovery of disasters, and allows for quick communication of the impact analysis.
Stream 6: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive threats (CBRN-E)
For Stream 6, The Technical Specification (TS) for the digital Chain of Custody (dCoC) of CBRN-E Evidence includes guidelines for the identification of stakeholder roles, their specific responsibilities and actions, the execution of secure digital transfers, and the identification of stakeholders contributing to the evidentiary materials at each Custody Transfer Point (CTP). Therefore, the TS ensures that the integrity, non-repudiation, and traceability of digital evidence items and custodians are maintained. The TS guidelines establish a standardised metadata structure to audit custody transfers, ensuring data integrity and compliance with business rules at each CTP. One of the opportunities for wider adoption is compliance with European data governance framework, ensuring chain of evidence integrity and certified operational teams proficient in dCoC guidelines and tools.
Also, citizen associations and NGOs supporting EU policies can be engaged for the adoption of this TS, as mitigating environmental and public-health risks is a priority. Direct beneficiaries including entities collaborating on the transportation of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) and entities collaborating in CBRNE incidents will benefit in various ways, including optimised utilisation of custodianship resources, reducing response time and reducing operational costs.
Stream 7: Training
The first CWA of Stream 7 includes Specifications for Digital Scenarios for Crisis Management Exercises (CWA 18019:2023). The CWA offers an interoperable and harmonized process that aims to digitize the scenario building activities. Improved preparedness to efficiently manage disaster risk is expected together with various other benefits.
The second CWA on evaluation of exercises (CWA 18009:2023) provides the basic guidelines on the creation of an evaluation scheme for exercises for crisis/disaster management, including exercises aiming to the validation of solutions by practitioners in the context of realistic situations and operational environment (trials). The adoption of this CWA will improve the multi-stakeholder exercises and training, and will facilitate collaborative disaster management on an EU-level, thanks to the common training.
One of the opportunities that could lead to the wider adoption of these CWAs is the rise in the public investments that governments spend for crisis management, due to climate extreme events, the rise of terrorism and other factors. Furthermore, the common positive outcomes resulting from the adoption of the CWAs include faster and more reliable response, improved decision support capacity, and better use of resources. These, in turn, lead to lower adverse impact at different levels, including the environmental one.
The STRATEGY project has brought together standardization bodies, policy makers, technology suppliers and first responders from several EU countries, who have worked to improve the interoperability of crisis management systems, tools and operational procedures, facilitate cross-border collaboration and promote a harmonised approach to disaster response across the EU. This is essential for saving lives and protecting the environment.
Acknowledgement and Disclaimer
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Work Programme for research and innovation 2018-2020, under grant agreement n°883520. This article reflects the authors’ views, and the Research Executive Agency and the European Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.