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Disaster preparedness by British space experts

UK: DMC International Imaging Ltd. (DMCii) led the team of space experts in a national flooding exercise, “Exercise Watermark”, to determine how satellite imagery, satellite communications and satellite navigation could be used to improve UK emergency response. The team represented an ongoing project funded via the UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as part of its contribution to the European Space Agency (ESA) IAP programme.

At the culmination of this 14 month project, the project team will recommend a system using space assets to improve situational awareness for the risks identified in the UK Government’s National Risk Register.

Exercise Watermark was masterminded by the Environment Agency, on behalf of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Welsh Assembly Government, following recommendations of The Pitt Review into the flooding emergency in June and July 2007 that resulted in 13 deaths and an estimated financial cost of GBP 3 billion. The exercise used scenarios based on severe weather conditions including flooding from the sea, rivers, surface water and reservoirs to put the UK’s emergency plans to the test.

Adina Gillespie, DMCii Project Manager, said: “Exercise Watermark provided the team with a unique first-hand view of how a disaster is handled on the ground. We know the contingency community doesn’t need to understand whizzy gadgetry, so now we are asking ourselves how can we incorporate information from space assets seamlessly into their existing disaster response procedures”

The UK resilience project benefits from a five-strong consortium. DMCii and fellow specialist Infoterra UK provide satellite imaging and mapping experience; Avanti Communications provides experience of secure back-up communications; Nottingham Scientific Ltd. is a world leader in safety-critical satellite navigation systems and the British Geological Survey provides additional expertise on a number of geohazards, including groundwater flooding. DMCii will debrief the participants of the exercise next month, looking at how space assets were used during the exercise and how they could be better-used in future civil contingency responses.

Source: DMC