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Satellite-based monitoring of emergencies

The phenomenon of satellite-based emergency monitoring is catching up fast as it covers wide areas, hard-to-reach territories, and provides real time data

Space monitoring of natural and human-induced emergencies and disasters has become an important and indispensable tool for national emergency response services. For Russia, with its vast and remote territories, the real time application of space-based information is particularly relevant. Keeping this in mind, an advanced satellite-based emergency monitoring system (SEMS) was created at the Russian Ministry of Emergencies (EMERCOM) based on the ScanEx RDC’s technology. The data from this system can be integrated into the works of the operational department of the National Center for Crisis Management (NCCM) and the results can be directly used for decision making in real time.

Daily monitoring for disaster response
The main objective of SEMS is daily monitoring of the country and performing emergency optical and all-weather radar imaging of areas of interest with spacecrafts of medium, high and very-high resolution for disaster forecasting and response.

Small size ‘UniScan’ ground station with the antenna diametre of 2.4 m, capable of receiving data from more than 10 satellites in X-band manufactured by ScanEx RDC, was installed at the EMERCOM centres in Moscow, Vologda, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok. Geographically distributed network of receiving stations of SEMS were able to provide wide coverage of Russia and neighbouring countries.

The main advantage of SEMS is its ability to work in real time with satellite images as the source of unbiased and up-to-date data. A centralised management system is introduced in the network so that satellite data reception for all stations is coordinated just from one centre in Moscow.

The user-friendly and simple visualisation format helps users, who have no knowledge in satellite imagery processing, to analyse the received information. The results of this system can be used in the daily operations of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

Network of receiving stations of Russian EMERCOM

Geoportal technology expedites the operability in handling the information received from space and providing access to satellite data for geographically remote users. A dedicated ‘Kosmoplan’ geoportal is installed in the server of the National Center for Crisis Management, created specifically for the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Satellite imagery data is loaded on this Web service with minimum delay, which contributes to the continuous monitoring of emergency situation, rescue operations planning, monitoring of response time, which is very important for in situ decision makers. The geoportal displays all the information in a processed format directly in the browser window. The users do not have to download files or use specialised software to see the image of an area of interest.

Left: Satellite image of Ussuriysk micro-district, Khabarovsk, received before the floods. Right: Inundated territory on the EROS B image, acquired on August 21, 2013

Following are some examples from recent applications of the described system by the Russian Ministry of Emergencies:

  • One of the most urgent trends in the use of SEMS in Russia is monitoring of the fire situation, especially in summers. In July 2013 with the help of regular incoming data from the Terra and Aqua satellites and imagery from SPOT 5/6 , UK-DMC2, EROS B satellites, the largest number of fires were detected in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Khanty-Mansi autonomous area. As a result, the EMERCOM officials declared a state of emergency in these areas and sent rescue teams who were able to douse the fire quickly and prevented its spread to the residential areas.
  • SEMS provided critical information during the floods in the Amur region in August- September 2013. Real-time monitoring data acquired from EROS B, SPOT 5 and RADARSAT- 2 satellites provided information about the real extent of flooding to the Far Eastern Regional Emergency Center. With the help of detailed analysis, the Centre was able to evacuate more than 2000 inhabitants of the affected areas, was able to assess the damage caused by floods, and plan remedial activities to prevent further flooding.
  • It’s also worth mentioning the experience of space data application in January 2013, when the derailment of 22 cars of freight train carrying coal occurred on the Trans-Siberian Route of the East-Siberian Railways in the Irkutsk Region, which led to a clash with a passing by locomotive. As a result, two people were killed, four overhead power lines and 100 m of railroad were damaged, hampering the traffic in the area. To ensure prompt arrival of the rescue teams to the crash scene, the EMERCOM employees used the EROS B and RADARSAT- 2 satellites images obtained through SEMS system for rapid mapping, thus revealing the optimal path route to the crash site.