CLGE’s delegate for Germany, Clemens Kiepke, has developed a spatially-based smartphone application to organise the work of volunteers during flood emergencies. He shows the social relevance of geoinformation and surveyors in a highly efficient way. Perhaps this will act as an incentive for others to develop similar applications or to take part in our Europe-wide initiative ’blueparking.eu.’
By Clemens Kiepke
Coastal and fluvial flood defence protection is an age-old responsibility, which is especially relevant at the present time, when the world seems to be experiencing an increasing number of extreme flood events. In Germany the largest areas of recent flooding have occurred due to weaknesses in the river flood banks and defence systems. Geodetic surveyors play an important role as data managers in tackling these problems. Their work has become increasingly important as a result of events such as the four major floods which have taken place on the River Elbe over the last thirteen years. Investigations into these disasters have clearly shown that surveyors are able to contribute as data experts and managers for the entire process; from data collection to the provision of spatial data. During the flood of 2013 there was a problem with the distribution of volunteers, who gathered to help with filling sandbags. In some places there were too many and others too few. One of the main aims of writing the App was to organise volunteers in disaster situations by providing suitable geographical information on modern mobile media. This measure would guide the right people to the right place at the right time. In order to reach as many people as possible, an application for smartphones was developed for IOS and Android to provide easy access to general and geographical information covering a large area. The App has been implemented for a region on the River Elbe for the Artlenburger Dike Association of Lüneburg (Lower Saxony, Germany). Following the success of this pilot scheme, it could be adopted by other organisations.
There were several stages in the development of the App:
- Identification and structuring of information required for modelling
- Spatial data management: the collection, management and provision of the necessary geographical information. This involved the collection and survey of the required basic and advanced geographical information and management
of the data to ensure it would be suitable for modelling.
- Deployment of user-orientated cartographic processing using suitable modern media.
In the region covered by the pilot study extensive data had already been recorded. This was restructured, mapped and analysed in the context of spatial data management to be provided for the most appropriate medium to deliver the information. It was decided that smartphones were the most suitable medium for the App.The following was identified as necessary information in the context of such an application:
- Display of the current alarm level
- Mapping of the wider area and specific information about the immediate
surroundings of the flood defence
- Accurate representation of the defence
- A defence directory
- Representation of the points (defence maintenance zones) where help
- Recording of data by and for the use of flood management partner
- Recording of data by and for the use of flood wardens
- Current water levels
- Information about packing sandbags, etc.
Implementing the app
The size of the resulting application is approximately 50MB. It is relatively large, as it is necessary to keep the core content, i.e. the geographical information relating to the embankments, accessible even when offline. The system should work, therefore, even when mobile networks are overloaded during periods of flooding. The expansion of mobile infrastructure and networks would also contribute to the protection of flood defences!
The application’s start screen is shown in Figure 1.
The application includes the following components:
- Spatial data covering the direct embankment area. The user is directed to the DSK mapping (German digital street map 1:10,000). This map is overlaid with information about road access for emergency crews, flood defence maintenance zones as points of interest and the shape, slope and height of the flood embankment. Google maps is an underlying layer, through which positioning and routing are enabled – see Figure 2.
- An alphabetical directory, which gives users some information about the flood defence.
- Water levels for areas of interest, which are updated daily.
- Anyone wishing to help can go to the ‘volunteers’ tab and will find a list of the flood defence maintenance zones. The system is controlled through a traffic light system – ‘Red’ – showing that help is needed – ‘Green’ – that there is no problem (see Figure 3). When pressing the desired maintenance zone on the screen, the graphic jumps to it and a route will then be made available. In this way, volunteers are directed to areas where help is needed, efficiently and accurately.
- For each section of embankment, the organisation responsible, for example, flood wardens and patrols, can create reports on damaged areas of the embankment. The reports are formalised and sent after their completion with photos and location to a collection database. Further more, in this section, users can find extensive information, but not public contact information. The reports help in organising the deployment of embankment guards in an easier, faster and more economical way. This is an internal area.
- There is a ‘more’ tab where users can find general information about the Dike Association and also practical information, such as how to pack sandbags.
Generally, the willingness to help, in the areas concerned, is good. This App is intended to make it easier for all those involved to coordinate and act in the event of a disaster, bringing potential volunteers to the areas where they are needed most. This application seeks to inspire young people to participate and to subsequently bring about a ‘culture of help’ through the medium of smartphones.
The App allows more effective action to be taken, as many functions include spatial data and a routing system. Institutional bodies, such as the fire brigade, army and other organisations can also be led directly to the locations where they are most needed. The development of the application is ongoing, in order to fulfil various additional purposes.
It is necessary to develop a clear chain of responsibility throughout the individual alarm levels. In Lower Saxony, the jurisdiction changes at a certain stage from the embankment associations to the county.
About the author
Clemens Kiepke studied geodetic surveying at the University of Hanover. He has years of experience of working practice in Germany and abroad and is a publicly appointed surveying engineer and head of his company. Clemens is a member of the board of BDVI in Lower Saxony (the business association of publicly appointed surveyors) and has served for nine years as chairman. He is also German delegate to CLGE. He teaches cadastre at the HCU (Harbour City University Hamburg) and is vice president of BDVI for Germany.