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Project Output: Concepts, Activities & Examples


The activities and outputs envisioned for this Project are varied. Each country has its own concerns and level of expertise. To be successful, the Project must be tailored to fit the needs of each participating country. Additionally, each country has considerable strengths. It will be an important focus of the Project to ensure each of the countries learns from the strengths and experiences of the others. It is all also important that there be some outputs that all the countries will work on together. In this way the Project will provide an integrating framework to foster the cooperation and collaboration of all the parties - a legacy to increase the long term impact and viability of the outputs of the Project.

The outputs can be grouped into four categories: 1) scientific products; 2) education; 3) intra and inter-governmental communications; and 4) Project communication. Here we present a summary of each of these categories and include examples of possible products. In this selection of possible outputs, the Multinational Andean (MAP) management and scientific team bring the experiences gained through MAP in addition to the excellent scientific quality and experience of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).

1) Scientific Products

A) Scientific Information

One of the first principal steps of the Project will be to collect basic geological, hazard, anthropogenic, hydrological, mineral, and archeological information for specific sites chosen by the countries. Some of these data will be collected using standard geological field techniques and methodology. Other data will be gleaned from local sources. All of the data will then be integrated with topography to provide a spatial reference frame for the information. Similar data sets have been compiled for the Canadian Cordillera. An example included here is the Yukon Digital Compilation Map CD-ROM. Though it does not include several of the datasets listed above, it is an example of the potential to present integrated information in a spatial format. Another example executed by the GSC Vancouver group is a web site entitled CORDlink. It also presents geoscience information in an integrated format in a web based environment. In addition to the presentation of information in a digital format, release of information through the standard paper publication formats of the National Geoscience Agencies will be encouraged.

B) Tools for Decision Making

a) Databases: A fundamental next step is understanding the geoscience knowledge-base gathered from field work and its importance in the development of effective land use planning. The scientific information must be effectively conveyed between scientists and the emergency managers. This is not an easy nor straightforward task, but is crucial in order to determine the level of risk to a community from geological hazards. The field work will determine which hazards represent a possibility, their likely magnitude, their probability of occurrence, and the combined level of hazard from all the different hazards. Although much of this information lies with scientists, it is typically conveyed inefficiently and haphazardly through discussion and cumbersome sets of hard copy maps of individual hazards, understandable and necessary for the scientific community, but generally unintelligible for groups such as emergency planners. One essential product of this Project will be to form integrated, searchable databases of information which bridge the gap between geoscience and emergency management.

The essential ingredients for the databases will come from two sources: the geoscientists and emergency managers themselves. In a database for a particular area or region will be the essential geological information (gathered in Part A). This essential information will consist of the type, magnitude, distribution and probability of each hazard, plus a combined hazard magnitude, distribution and probability. This type of database would in itself be new and useful, but by taking additional steps forward by incorporating basic epidemiological information on relevant past disasters as well as land-use and infrastructure information available, it will be even more useful. The result will be a complete tool for both scientists and emergency managers, giving simultaneous access to related geohazard and land-use data. For scientists, this would mean immediate, precise knowledge of the impact of newly-discovered or revised geological hazards on land use. For emergency planners, it would mean immediate knowledge of the hazards to particular roads and buildings, allowing decisions to be made efficiently on issues such as planning evacuation routes and establishing acceptable locations for shelters.

An integrated database of this nature would be well-suited to a Geographic Information System (GIS), but the computing power and level of technological expertise required to operate such a system may preclude its usefulness. For the Multinational Andean Project similar challenges were overcome by developing a simpler, relational database using inexpensive, commercially-available software. Through innovative design, an advanced database was created which integrates essential information from five geological subdisciplines (field mapping, petrology, geochronology, paleontology, isotopes) and has simplified versions of GIS-type databases, such as an ability to search for data by "clicking" on areas of maps. This database could be modified to suit a hazards theme. The advantages of using a simpler system are (1) it can be created and modified quickly; (2) it can be run on any computer platform (Mac or PC, desktop, laptop and palm pilot); (3) it can be easily published on the internet, making it appropriate for rapid updating and maximizing access to the information. The fact that this simpler database system can be used on low-power computers such as palm pilots also means the database can be used in the field. Detailed information giving an overview of the MAPdb software can be found on the internet at http://gsc.pma-map.com/db/dbhelp/helphome.html (note: the username is: PMA and the password is PMA)

Much of the needed data for this database already exists, housed separately with emergency management departments of governments and with scientists. Epidemiological information already exists in database form for disasters, for example "La Red" covers South American countries and CRED covers the entire planet from 1900 to the present. Initiating the database would therefore be a matter of having data input, with additional information on the geological hazards deriving from other aspects of the Project such as hazard field mapping and geological process simulations. A database of this type would allow emergency managers to easily calculate risk, and in fact it would be possible to have the database itself automatically calculate risk. The end result would be the efficient design of mitigation measures.

The database will act as a core warehouse of information for scientists, emergency managers and possibly the public, allowing easy determination of hazards to particular areas and infra structural elements, and also the determination of risk.

b) Simulation of Hazardous Geological Events: Advances in the quantitative understanding of geological processes and increasing computer capabilities have led to the development of numerical models which simulate geological hazards. These simulations make it possible for scientists to model a range of hazard conditions and thus create hazard maps where little or no field information is available, or complement limited field information. This technique is particularly useful for some geological hazards. However, at present the various simulation models exist as separate pieces of unrelated software, typically only held and used by the small number of specialists who created them. Nevertheless, models are published and hence publicly available. Scientists are keen to see them applied, but typically do not have the time or funding to develop them into a usable package for developing countries. An output of this Project, therefore, will be the integration of existing software into a cohesive package, designed to allow specialists or generalist technical staff to perform hazard simulations and obtain hazard maps for a range of processes related to volcanic eruptions, landslides and earthquakes.

In order to create a map of geological hazards, scientists use the assumption that future processes will be similar to those of the past, and that the most recent events are the most likely types of future events. The input required for this programming is firstly field work, in which geological and geophysical observations are made to establish what has happened in the past, and also the current status of the environment. By nature this methodology is limited as it only gives a view into a small fraction of a volcano's past. In order to provide a balanced view of the hazards, a second approach is applied in which a range of realistic scenarios is considered. The range of conditions is determined by the results of the field work and the experience of the scientists and their colleagues. Normally, very crude estimates are made based on similar events which have occurred elsewhere, for example to estimate the amount of volcanic ash that will fall at a particular distance, or the runout length of a landslide or mudflow. Software which simulates the processes is the ideal tool for this part of the hazard mapping process, allowing scientists to input ranges of physical conditions and generate results which do not rely on the particular experience of the scientist involved. The result is a map of the hazards. Simulations have the additional benefits of being possible to be run on the internet (e.g., simple volcanic ash plume paths can be created at: http://www.arl.noaa.gov/ready/runvaftad.html, where they can be effective communication tools for emergency managers and politicians, and also useful for public education. A final, and critical, use of simulation software is during crisis situations, when monitoring of environmental conditions indicates the increasing possibility of an event not previously forecast. For example, landslides may dam rivers and produce temporary lakes, which eventually break through the dam and generate large mudflows. In the event of a landslide, measurements of the volume of the new dam and lake, and the downstream topography, could be fed into a mudflow simulation program, allowing the identification of a new hazard in response to the changing conditions. This in turn would permit the development of appropriate mitigation measures. Therefore the simulations could contribute to the creation of hazard maps for "expected" events, and for quickly revising maps to accommodate rapidly changing conditions.

The simulation package will be primarily designed for scientists and technical workers who are involved in the creation of hazard maps and monitoring of environmental conditions; simplified versions will be published on the web for public use. The package will perform modelling of the dominant volcanic hazards (ash plumes, ash fallout, pyroclastic flows, pyroclastic surges, lavas and mudflows) and landslide hazards (landslides, mudflows). The existing software for each of these processes will be incorporated into a single, straightforward, user-friendly interface through interaction with the scientists who created the simulations.

C) Scientific Training

In both parts A and B above, the training of highly qualified staff is an extremely important component of the Project. In order for the Project to be successful, the legacy it must leave behind is staff able and willing to carry out continued field work, manipulate the data for maximum gain and use whatever software programs have been developed. It is anticipated that there will be specific training given (see below), but in addition, advanced educational opportunities would be offered to selected individuals from the countries who will receive training in hazards and software engineering and will provide post-project training / continuity in the use of the software. This would be at a post-graduate level.

2) Education

Perhaps the most important issue to consider when designing an international aid Project which involves the creation of new technologies and procedures, is that of the life of the technology or procedure after the conclusion of the Project. For this reason it is important to develop information dissemination mechanisms and educational tools that will continue to be relevant and useful for years after the Project's termination. It is also important that these tools and mechanisms require minimal maintenance and updates and that they be as self explanatory as possible (i.e., they require little or no instruction, or guidance by an expert and be easy to use). Following on this philosophy, the education component would fall into three categories: A. Training of highly qualified personnel within the participating organizations at a post-graduate level as stated above; B. Education and training of skilled user groups such as land planners, teachers and municipal workers; and C. Education of the public.

A) Formal Institutional Education

In addition to the standard short courses, workshops and collaborative associations that would occur within the Project, alternative mechanisms for creating training tools was investigated. An example of one such system comes from Transtech Interactive of Vancouver, B.C. This company designs web-based training material aimed at reducing training time, costs, teacher interaction, and increasing comprehension.

During the course of the proposed Project new software will be developed for the maintenance and manipulation of scientific data relevant to hazard mitigation (see databases and simulation discussions above) and it is hoped that this software will become a standard software used by all countries involved. In order to create confidence on the part of the institutions involved it will be necessary to train their personnel on the use of the software but also to produce training material which is self explanatory and which can be used after the Project has concluded. Transtech's system involves creating training software designed for the learner to use with little or no supervision and includes an assessment component which measures the learner's level of understanding of the subject and designs a customized course based on the person's skill levels.

It is hoped that through the implementation of training systems such as that by Transtech, the post-project life-span of software and/or other products and procedures developed during the proposed Project will be increased, thus creating a legacy of a successful Project.

B) Training of skilled user groups

In order to effectively use the tools to be developed under Scientific Products, effective educational programs would need to be implemented. Education programs could be designed with the following groups in mind, both as learners and as those who help with further training: universities, local governments, land use planners, engineers, architects, and other professionals interested in sustainable development. Education would include learning about landscape in general, geological processes, as well as erosion, leading to a better local understanding of physical geography and the processes that affect the environment. Review of geological processes such as erosion, mass wasting, landslides, earthquakes, mudflows, rock avalanches, and so on may be required. A significant contribution would be a training program for the public and local officials and professionals on field recognition of geological features related to hazards. In addition to standard classroom or field techniques, information dissemination in new and innovative forms is required. Such innovation can be found in the Geological Survey of Canada's educational poster products such as GeoMap Vancouver (which includes information on several geological hazards), Vancouver Landscapes, and some of the Geoscape series, such as Geoscape Fort Fraser. These products all present geological information in a form that is user friendly, promotes learning, and conveys significant amount of scientific information. Some of these products are also suitable for general distribution. Development of these types of products for selected areas of the countries could contribute significantly to the geological and hazard literacy of public officials as well as the general public.

C) Community Education

The World Bank and other organizations have concentrated mostly on after-disaster reconstruction and mitigation, although the more recent trend is toward pre-disaster, proactive hazard mitigation. From their vast experience, some recommendations were made in a document entitled "Learning from the World Bank's Experience of Natural Disaster Related Assistance", by Roy Gilbert and Alcira Kreimer (1999). The experience of the World Bank suggests that emergency response and disaster mitigation work much more smoothly and with better results if there is significant participation from the community, and particularly if the people are consulted about their needs early on in the Project implementation process.

Participation from local community groups in natural disaster mitigation efforts is encouraged by more widespread knowledge about the types of hazards that are likely to occur in an area, as well as by programs that involve local institutions and people in planning and development of response strategies. It is proposed that the Project include a significant public education component. Public education programs could be designed with the following groups in mind, both as learners and as those who help with further training: Students, teachers, and parents involved with schools; women's collectives; and community or neighbourhood groups.

Because natural disasters are caused by the natural interaction of atmospheric and geologic forces combined with the geographical distribution of people, it is helpful to educate the public in any community about basic geographic facts and concepts, particularly as they relate to the specific region in which the people live. Education about natural disasters can be divided into scientific and social / practical types of learning. To achieve this it will be necessary to work on customizing educational tools and courses to meet the very specific needs and consider the uniqueness of different groups (i.e., rural community groups, indigenous groups, women's collectives etc.).

Scientific education can be achieved through training courses as well as informative regional map poster products such as the Geoscape series; for instance, Geoscape Vancouver and Geoscape Victoria. Specific hazards can be addressed with general education products like the USGS Oceans and Coastal Hazards poster, and the USGS Mount Rainier Volcanic Hazards poster.

Social / practical education would include organizing community response teams; training in household and neighbourhood preparedness; and planning for the quick cooperation of groups at all levels of response to a potential disaster.

In addition, the participant countries may decide collectively to produce a cooperative Natural Hazards Map combining information for all of their countries, as in the example of the National Geographic Natural Hazards Map of North America (Peligros Naturales).

3) Intra & Inter-Government Communication

Building up trust between Governments at any level is often a difficult task, fraught with difficulties often deeply rooted in history. However, for hazard mitigation it is critical that all levels of government learn to work together. One of the things that MAP has been successful at achieving is good working relationships among the participating countries. For the success of this Project, it is important that these working relationships be strengthened and extended to other levels of government such as the state and local level. One of the outputs that might be undertaken under this Project that would help to strengthen these relationships is a regional volcanic ash warning plan for aircraft and people on the ground. Such a plan might be modelled after the successful Canadian example (the Interagency Volcanic Event Notification Plan). Plans such as these call for many agencies from several levels of government to work together in an coordinated fashion to avoid disaster.

4) Project Communication Products

In any project as complex as this one is likely to be, good communications is essential. Under the auspices of MAP as number of the tools have already been developed. A comprehensive web page (pma-map.com) containing information restricted to participants and for the general public has proven an effective way of communicating information about the Project to a wide audience. Additionally, the product of a monthly newsletter ensures that all participants are aware of activities taking place. Gathering the Project Leaders and the Directors of the institutions together twice a year is a very effective way of ensuring that the communications lines remain open. Minutes and other relevant documents from these meetings ensure that the decisions made and actions taken are not forgotten, but are kept for maintaining and ensuring Project continuity.