The European Commission’s Emergency Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC) in Brussels are tasked with managing the response to crisis within Europe and also, as necessary, globally. As with many emergency response organisations, the ERCC process a huge array of scientific information in their internal decision making machinery. One of the many ‘information rich’ areas is that which relates to natural hazards and therefore, in 2015, the ERCC issued a tender of consortiums to develop a multi-hazard advisory service and thereby reduce the current analytical burden on the ERCC.
In 2015 the ARISTOTLE consortium, a partnership of 16 scientific institutions from 15 countries, successfully won the competitive tender process and since then have been working to overcome the many challenges of designing, building and operating a multi-hazard advisory service to provide the ERCC with information and expert advice with respect to flooding, earthquakes, severe weather, volcanic emissions and tsunamis.
The first such challenge was time, as the ERCC mandated that the operational multi-hazard advisory service must be operational within 12 months. The second was how to create an operational delivery system from such a diverse group of partners.
Our methodology was to keep the solution simple; to focus not only on the power of sharing information between respective experts, naturally supported by an underpinning IT system, but concentrating on scientific knowledge and agility of the partner institutions. No one partner acts alone, each ‘hazard’ is assessed by a group of leading institutions in their field, using their own information, analysis and scientific expertise and also harvesting information already in the public domain to develop an assessment for any hazard. Once assessed, a ‘multi-hazard’ conversation between nominated ‘hazard leads’ then takes place to agree that all important ‘multi-hazard’ assessment, which not only discusses the event but also, and very importantly, describes the potential impact on the ground.
Conclusions are quickly drawn and initial advice reported to ERCC within 30 minutes. More detailed information is provided within a three hour time window, through a report, and ongoing support is provided throughout the lifetime of an event if required. Again, our advice is in the form of expert interpretation, leaving ERCC free to concentrate on those all important operational decisions.
While the partnership works to support rapid onset hazards such as Earthquakes, it also operates in what is known as routine monitoring reports and advice in respect of potential hazardous events such as tropical storms and flooding.
While our operating methodology is simple, it is underpinned by detailed Standard Operating and management procedures, which provide a firm basis for the operational teams and an agreed and collaborative management structure so that each partner has an equal voice. Initial feedback from the ERCC and governments around Europe has been extremely positive and, at times, the advice provided by ARISTOTLE has been described as ‘game changing’.
The ARISTOTLE Multi-Hazard Advice Service became operational from a standing start within 12 months. Our next challenge is to embrace new partners, new techniques, innovation and the best the science community can offer to build what we hope to become known as the European Multi-Hazard Natural Hazard Partnership (ENHSP). This will continue to provide that all important and timely expert advice, but will also become a home for ensuring that the European Commission are provided with the best Multi-Hazard Service for many years to come.