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How EU Funded Research Projects have improved Covid19 Resilience of Rescue and Emergency Control Rooms

  • Ministry of the Interior - Italy
  • Ministero dell'Interno, Italy, Rome


The Italian National Fire and Rescue Services (CNVVF) has been participating since 2006 to EU research projects aimed at improving rescue services through the design, development and implementation of enhanced capacity for data exchange. The most important result of such projects is the possibility to manage complex and large-scale emergencies using interoperability platform. Such solution is based mainly on the CAP standard, that has been adopted by the CNVVF from 2008. A side effect of such efforts is the added value of resilience against the Covid19 pandemic that the interoperabi-lity platforms and the adoption of a common data exchange standard can mean in terms of protection of the operators and continuity of rescue services in complex emergencies.
How EU Funded Research Projects have improved
Covid19 Resilience of Rescue and Emergency Control
Keywords: interoperability, EDXL-CAP
Common Alerting Protocol, rescue, civil
protection, Covid19, CNVVF, control rooms,
resilience, civil protection
The Italian National Fire and Rescue Services
(CNVVF) has been participating since 2006
to EU research projects aimed at improving
rescu e ser v i c e s t h r o u gh th e d e s i g n,
development and implementation of enhanced
capacity for data exchange. The most
important result of such projects is the
possibility to manage complex and large-scale
emergencies using interoperability platform.
Such solution is based mainly on the CAP
standard, that has been adopted by the
CNVVF from 2008. A side effect of such
efforts is the added value of resilience against
the Covid19 pandemic that the interoperabi-
lity platforms and the adoption of a common
data exchange standard can mean in terms of
protection of the operators and continuity of
rescue services in complex emergencies.
1. Introduction
The CNVVF (Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del
Fuoco - Italian National Fire and Rescue
Services) is a nation-wide organisation that,
with some 42.000 units (36.000 professional
and 8.000 volunteers) carries out technical
rescue and is recognised by the Civil
protection law as the main component of the
National Civil Protection Service. In such
perspective, the CNVVF needs to maintain a
constant flow of real time information
between all the Authorities involved in
emergency management. Form the daily
rescue operations to the more complex
emergencies, only seldom there’s just one
authority involved. Most often, more of them
must work together, so that they should
possibly reach the scenario with the needed
resources as soon as possible.
The sole application of the art. 26 of EU
directive on universal service [1], about the
adoption of the 112 European Emergency
Ing. Stefano Marsella
Ministero dell'Interno
Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco
Prof.Roberto Setola
Università Campus Biomedico di Roma
Ing. Davide Pozzi
Ministero dell'Interno
Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco
Ing. Marcello Marzoli
Ministero dell'Interno
Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco
Not including Valle d’Aosta region and Bolzano and Trento provinces, which manage their own services
The research leading to these results has received funding from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework
Programme for Research and Innovation (H2020/2014-2020) under grant agreements no 740627 and 740575
Number in every EU member state, is not
suffic i e n t t o g u a r a nt ee th e f l ow of
information that rescue authorities need to
coordinate and cooperate before and during
any operation. In fact, the 112 was born and is
managed to allow citizens to turn to rescuers.
So, a different tool has to be adopted to
im prove dat a ex change be twee n first
responders during the emergency phases.
The faster the flow, the better the rescue is
deployed and, to this end, the most efficient
way to reach the goal of a fast flow of
information is to allow each authority to
manage its own data with its proprietary
system and, at the same time, let it send and
acquire seamlessly data from other authorities
using a common protocol of data exchange.
Figure 1 - Left: The Command and Control room in
the early phases of the Central Italy 2009
Earthquake (in the following days the number of
people nearly doubled). Right: a multi agencies
meeting held in the immediate aftermath of the 7th
July 2005 attacks in London
2. The process of testing and
introducing interoperability in
When it comes to manage disasters, the
number of the involved authorities is high
enough to make the decision-making process
complex. Fig. 1 shows how the Command
and Control room of the 2009 Central Italy
earthquake had been organised, in order to let
all the different actors to exchange the
enormous quantity of data needed.
The management of such event has been
rightly praised for its efficiency and it was
basically based on direct personal contacts.
Such aspect, was unchanged in the following
large scale events in Italy (earthquakes of
2012 and 2016). However, it shows immedia-
tely its criticality in presence of the Covid19
pandemic: how to let managers and their staff
work and exchange the needed load of data,
while maintaining the social (or physical)
distancing to protect them in the emergency
St arting from 2007, the C NVVF has
participated to a number of EU research and
in n o va t i on act i o ns , f o c use d o n t h e
improvement of interoperability of rescue and
civil protection services. In particular, the
CNVVF has been partner in the 6th, 7th and
8th (a.k.a. Horizon 2020) Framewo rk
Programs. PETRAnet (2005-2007), REACT
(2007-2009) [2], SAVEME (2009-2012),
HELI4RESCUE (2011-2013), IDIRA
(2013-2015), STORM (2016-2019), IN PREP
(2018-2020), FIRE IN (2018-2023) and the
STRATEGY projects (2020-2023), which is
going to be kicked off in September 2020. All
these projects have one common element: the
inclusion of specific activities aimed to allow
firs t res p o n d er s a t e xchangi n g da t a
independently from location, language, and
technological barriers.
Some examples can help to understand the
practical application of the interoperability
improvement reached with such projects:
the main Italian uses of the CAP are the
exchange of data on vegetation fires that
the CNVVF sends to the Carabinieri
Corps, to allow investigations and local
collaborations of various kinds with local
agencies, such as, for example, the one
among the most busy operating rooms
involved in the civil protection activities
in Veneto region, including the water
basin management authorities of large
reservoirs who, having the possibility of
been informed in real time of calls
arriving at the CNVVF on flooding
events, can decide how to regulate water
flows to limit bigger risks.
the STORM [3] project has showed how
laser scanning techniques can be used
from the first phase of assessing damages
suffered by buildings up to the design of
the provisional works [4]. The system,
remotely accessed, let different authori-
ties and boards to take their decisions and
allowed field operators to work without
The research leading to these results has received funding from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework
Programme for Research and Innovation (H2020/2014-2020) under grant agreements no 740627 and 740575
the IN_PREP [5] project have tested in
the desktop exercises held on 2018 in
Foligno and 2019 in Savona (the final
field exercise planned in Savona on
March 2020 has been postponed due to
the Covid19 pandemic), the possibility to
manage local complex emergencies with
a team work from remote. In the
exercises the problems caused by injects
have been faced, resolved and recorded,
within a process that would help all the
participants to give their best without
meeting in the same physical room.
The constant interest of the CNVVF to such
projects as an end user has brought it to
propose and test innovative uses of existing
technologies to improve the service of the
first responders. Obviously, rescue is a
person-operated service, that hardly will ever
be replaced by machines, but the complex
information and data exchange activities that
allow first responders to be deployed
efficiently, especially during large scale
emergencies, still has wide margins for
In order to solve the technological aspect of
the problem, the EU has constantly published
research calls over the years emphasising the
importance of data interoperability.
Interoperability, in terms of rescue services,
means the possibility for the different parts to
maintain the proprietary data management
structure while sending and receiving data
that could have been automatically processed
without any further operation [6].
Technically, such development has been
implemented through the adoption of a
standard format of the messages containing
the data to be sent or received. Consensus has
been reached within the projects to use the
CAP (Common Alerting Protocol), which is a
standard born for exchanging public alerts
and warnings between alerting systems [7] .
Over the years such standard has been
adopted in a growing number of emergency
management organisations (i.e. the US
Department of Homeland Security, the
Chinese Civil Protection Agency, the EU
Emergency Response Coordination Centre -
The CNVVF, after the decrees of 2008 and
2011, that established the possibility of
automatically exchanging data useful for
emergency management with all the bodies
involved, has adapted the emergency data
management system, which is now fully
interoperable, having deployed all the
functionalities for a real-time two-way
standard-based data sharing.
Fig. 2 - Every emergency has its specific needs,
also in terms of authorities involved (left). The
solution emerged within the years of research
activity funded by the EU is a not-centralised
structure of data exchange (center), but a network
based only on the adoption of a common standard of
data exchange (right), that lets every single o group
of the authorities involved in the emergency
management to decide which data exchange with
any specific part involved.
3. CAP standard, interoperability
and Covid19 resilience
The first application of CAP in Italy have
been recorded during the 2009 L’Aquila
earthquake: four months after the first shock,
a system capable of managing the process of
ensuring the safety of cultural heritage
buildings has been set up by the CNVVF.
Such test, together with an application aimed
at improvin g th e fo rest f ire fighting
operations in Calabria region in the same
year, has been financed with EU research
funds of the REACT project and proved
immediately the advantages of working on a
technological platform [8].
The test demonstrated an increase of the
effic i e n cy of t h e p r o cesse s (d i g i tal
communication cannot replace personal
contact, but in many situation its accuracy can
help to improve the overall process), which
was not only due to the reduction of the
organisation and movement time of the
meetings, but also to the accuracy of the data
produced. So that, aiming at making rescue
operations more efficient, the EU has also
The research leading to these results has received funding from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework
Programme for Research and Innovation (H2020/2014-2020) under grant agreements no 740627 and 740575
reached the unexpected effect of having laid
the found a t ions to add resil i ence to
emergency management services.
In the case of the Covid19 pandemic, the
CNVFF has experienced that the CAP based
emergency management system has ensured
the continuity of management, protecting
operators through a reduced number of
presence. Even working with a reduction of
some 30% of the back office units (including
the control rooms), the rescue services have
not been affected, as well as the capability of
cooperating with other authorities from
remote, due to the possibility to get data in
any place and in any moment.
4. Discussion
Adopting a common protocol imply investing
funds in the upgrading of the systems that
ma n a ge resc u e o p erat i o n data . Th e
economical effort is not different from normal
maintenance costs of such systems. A
problem that affects many organisations can
be found in the cultural approach to data
exchange. The resistance to open the
information flow to automatic system rather
than keeping a direct control can be
considered the main obstacle to the set-up of
interoperable rescue networks.
The co nsciousness t h a t the Co v i d 19
pandemic could last months or years and,
even not hopefully, could be replaced by
other virus pandemics could be a turning
point in the adoption of really interoperable
n e t w o r k s a im ed a t t h e e m e rg en c y
The alternative is the risk of discovering,
during an emergency, Covid19 infected areas
in the most critical nodes of the control and
command systems.
5. Conclusion
The EU, through the funding of projects
aimed at improving interoperability in rescue
and civil protection activities, has allowed the
relevant authorities to improve their response
systems in case of complex or large-scale
An unexpected result of the approach
financed by the EU research programs is the
possibility for different rescue authorities to
work in a Covid19 resilient mode. The
technological side of the challenge can be
considered substantially overcome. The
nature of the obstacles that the involved
organisations have to face is the adaptation of
their systems. If, previously, the adoption of
interoperable systems could be considered
just an improvement of the services, it is now
the best way to respond to the calamities in
which multiple services have to operate
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[4] Cristaldi, M., Delprato, U., & Marzoli, M.
(n.d.). CAP in the IST project REACT.
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[5] Resta, V., Utkin, A. B., Neto, F. M., &
Patrikakis, C. Z. (2019). Cultural Heritage
Resilience Against Climate Change and
Natural Hazards. Pisa University Press.
[6] Rader, A., Edmunds, M., & Bishop, J.
(n.d.). Public Health Preparedness and
R e s p o n s e f o r A t -R i sk P o pu l at i on s :
Harnessing the Power of Heath Information
and Communication Technologies.
[7] Public Warning Design Guidelines for FIA
M e s s a g i n g . ( 2 0 1 5 ) . h t t p s : /
[8] Marsella, S., & Marzoli, M. (2017).
Improving emergency management DSS
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Technologies, AICT 2016 - Conference
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The research leading to these results has received funding from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework
Programme for Research and Innovation (H2020/2014-2020) under grant agreements no 740627 and 740575
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This volume is the result of three years of research and prototype activity performed in the framework of the Horizon 2020 STORM project. Together with twenty organisations comprising the final phase of the pilots, this book forms one of the last initiatives of the Consortium which is briefly presented in the poster reproduced in the last pages of this book which had been realised as project's propotional material once STORM started in 2016. All the authors of the following Chapters are members of the STORM team and some of them are Member of the Executive Board thereof, and the four editors are the expression of different aspects of the complex research performed during the project lifecycle. Authors of this book come from diverse backgrounds, and so do their Chapters. The works herein all evidence of climate change and therefore they allow us to understand the multifarious aspects its threats. Coming back to the STORM project, it is the case to start giving evidence of its origin mentioning its framework and the H2020 ‘call for proposal’ which it refer to. STORM born as a proposal in the summer of 2015 written to ‘reply’ to a call belonging to the ‘Secure Societies’ programme which is the seventh programme within the Horizon 2020 pillar called ‘Societal Challenges’. In details, taking into consideration the four working area comprising ‘Secure Societies’ the project is related to the one called Disaster-resilience: safeguarding and securing society, including adapting to climate change and, more in detail to its third topic DRS-11-2015: Mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on cultural heritage sites, structures and artefacts. The Consortium is composed of twenty Partners across six European Countries plus an extra one: the Turkey. Further to the Partners there are also two so called ‘associated Partners’ which participate to the research without being funded. The author of the foreword is a non-expert in the variety of competencies around the world of cultural heritage protection and preservation. For certain situations this is a disadvantage even though it enables us to consider the matter from a different perspective. From this angle, this book aims to give evidence of the various technologies and methodologies enhanced by years of research and experiments on the field to give cultural heritage sites ‘resilience’ to climate change. The sad reality is that the starting level for every kind of cultural heritage site is ‘zero’ and only with a lot of determination could this aim be achieved. Further evidence of difficulties faced is the lack of a proper manner to measure resilience both in qualitative and quantitative terms. This fact affirms it is no possible to define a “Resilient” cultural heritage site in a shared view. Empirical evidence demonstrates the non-uniformity in defining all the processes and measures adopted from a cultural heritage management to achieve this purpose. This consideration encourages the need of the creation of a proper ‘resilience certification’ like is happening in other emerging sectors also [see i.e. the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) which “covers almost every product, process or service imaginable, ISO makes standards used everywhere”]. As per the mentioned certification its potential of innovation lies in the principles from which it draws inspiration, that is the sharing of responsibility in the management of conservation issues, the control of activities generating impacts and the use of market mechanisms that seek in cultural heritage preservation excellence a source of competitive advantage. The strong point of this potential resilience record, beyond the creation of a solid structure capable of systematically controlling and managing climate change and environmental impacts on a cultural heritage site, lies in the pursuit for communication and transparency, or in improvement of the relations between cultural heritage site’s manager and control bodies, institutions, citizens one of the pillars on which the STORM project is based on. However, there are other vast obstacles before one should think about resilience certification. These relate to the fact that every site and each threat from climate change has its own peculiarities. In other word, it is the case to introduce a new relevant concept: the ‘quantity of resilience’ necessary in each site. This amount is another unknown element which should be studied. But this is another story which could form the subject of an ad hoc research with other multidisciplinary teams. Chapter 1 presents several recommendations that resulted from the experience gained within STORM project, as well as thoughts from experts, in order to improve government policies on cultural heritage risk management. Starting from the main European and international frameworks, this chapter explores different areas that require some improvements in order to implement a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) approach in cultural heritage sites. More precisely, it introduces operative proposals regarding: heritage Conservation; Communication between climate researchers and heritage managers; Coping and Adaptive capacities approaches based on current conceptual models; Cooperation among the different actors involved in the DRM of cultural heritage; Capacity building of heritage professionals, communities, via training and education programmes (the STORM 5 ‘C’s’). A STORM risk-oriented proposal to improve policies at governmental level focused on prevention (i.e. focused on reducing vulnerabilities and exposure of cultural heritage) are also envisioned, although in a broader scope in order to answer to the common constraints of the different STORM countries. Chapter 2 presents an integrated methodology of risk assessment and management for cultural heritage properties in response to the adverse effects of natural hazards and climate change-related events. The proposed methodology is applied to the five STORM pilot sites to identify and analyse the potential hazards and their corresponding risks. Accordingly, relative risk maps are generated to share a common understanding of the risks with the site managers and stakeholders. The output of the risk assessment for the pilot sites will further support the decision-making process to determine risk treatment strategies, including risk mitigation, risk preparedness, and recovery plan. Chapter 3 focusses on the specific sensors and supporting information technologies developed during the Project for timely artefact diagnosis and early detection of potential threats to the cultural heritage. Several technical solutions were chosen on the basis of the plethora of existing and emerging techniques in this field — discussed, analysed and benchmarked at the first stage of STORM. The selection was determined, first of all, by the peculiarities of hazards for each of the pilot sites where the technical solution was going to be deployed and, secondarily, by the cost-effectiveness and how safe the diagnostic procedure is for the artefact (in particular, at what extent the measurements are non-destructive and non-invasive. The reviewed sensing and information technologies cover all the five pilot sites of the Project and numerous measurement techniques and data processing algorithms dealing with assessing structural performance by vibration, crack monitoring, electrical resistivity tomography, ground penetrating and interferometry radar, fibre Bragg grating interrogation, induced fluorescence spectroscopy, multispectral aerial photography, as well as photogrammetry and terrestrial laser scanning. Chapter 4 charts the use of the data streaming in from the tools and sensors used in the STORM project. Several aspects are discussed herein, the analysis of weather data collected from the UK pilot sites weather station, the analysis of earthquake damage on structures at the Turkish pilot site together with the analysis of the novel Twitter Event Extractor developed by Resil- Tech and cursory analysis of the wireless acoustic sensors currently deployed across the STORM pilot sites to detect hazards from noise. This chapter gives an overview of just a small selection of data analysis currently being tested across the consortium and within the scope of the STORM project in a bid to help site managers and stakeholders in the efficient monitoring and preservation of their Cultural Heritage sites. Chapter 5 gives an overview of the tools and services developed in the STORM project that contribute to share knowledge and critical information to face critical events in Cultural Heritage sites. The STORM Collaborative Decision-Making Dashboard provides two environments, the collaborative and the operative, which are strongly interconnected with one other. The user interface and the services developed in the backend permits to collect, show, store and retrieve all the information related to existing knowledge about disastrous events and to new knowledge (e.g. from the situational picture, risk assessment) of the actual situation shared by team of experts in order to identify the best recovery actions. The STORM’s surveying and diagnosis service and mobile application will make it simpler for sites to monitor their CH assets through the STORM Prevention and Mitigation Processes, allowing to report issues within the application while conducting surveying activities, while the STORM Risk Assessment and Management Tool aims at providing to the site managers and experts a tool to identify and analyse the natural hazards, assessing the level of risk in different areas of a site and giving a level of priority to the items contained in the areas. Finally, the STORM web-GIS infrastructure supports the visualization of geospatial data managed by several services such as the risk assessment and the situational awareness Chapter 6 describes in detail the cloud-based infrastructure that supports the data management of the STORM platform. An overview of the modular STORM cloud architecture is presented, which consists of a Core cloud and several Edge cloud instances. Moreover, herein are introduced the STORM platform’s authentication and registration mechanisms for establishing a secure communication between the sensors and the data analysis services. Finally, the chapter concludes by defining the interfaces between the Core cloud and the Edge clouds. Chapter 7 presents the STORM System Architecture inspired by a layered architectural principle that includes six main logical layers (Source, Data, Information, Event, Service and Application Layer) implementing the STORM functional and non-functional requirements. Going through each layer, this chapter gives an overview of the main STORM Logical Architecture sources and modules, including their functionalities, dependencies and basic operations. Moreover, the STORM Interoperability Architecture is described to show the interactions and the control flow among the architectural modules. Finally, the chapter focuses on which technologies are used to implement such functionalities. The technical and implementation aspects of all STORM modules are described, and some technical guidelines and details match the requirements of the logical architecture are proposed Chapter 8 gives a brief overview about advantages and possibilities offered to protection and enhancement of Cultural Heritage by the chance of always being connected by a net. In particular, all the advantages given by the technologies developed within the STORM Project and the usefulness of the STORM approach in remote monitoring are described, since all these help in having greater preparedness and effectiveness of interventions, in addition to the possibility of collecting and storing very huge number of data. in order to prevent damage or material loss. In a connected world, every specialist has the opportunity to acquire the necessary data and to know the work of art’s situation in advance, having the time to plan the right intervention to be carried out and to organize the needed activities with the due attention. Particular attention is also given to the usefulness that apps and services created for recreational purposes (i.e. social networks) may have not only to enhance cultural heritage, but also to raise awareness among the population about this theme. Chapter 9 provides an overview of the STORM strategy in the pilot sites, focusing on pilot practical experiences, with an initial assessment of the results achieved until now. Multiple experimental scenarios in five countries (the UK, Italy, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey), covering both slow- and sudden- onset hazards, validate the proposed solutions in relation to the three phases defined in the project: Risk Assessment, Situation Awareness and First Aid activities. STORM introduces a comprehensive approach that supports end users with transversal services as data analytics and knowledge sharing during all these phases. The book is ending with an ‘epilogue’ in which there is a ‘recipe’ on how to proceed in making cultural heritage more resilient against climate change. Not only in term preservation, but in view of an aware use of this huge value which the Europe Union is a guardian, paladin as well as proud owner!
Conference Paper
DSS is commonly intended as a computer-based information system that supports business or organisational decision-making activities. Such definition implies the capacity of a DSS of analysing and processing data generated or communicated by multiple sources. A DSS developed to help a civil protection or a fire service Authority should be fed by data and information provided not only by the citizens to emergency numbers, but also from any other organisation involved in the rescue process as well as by available sensors networks, from simulation tools using such data and from the wealth of information provided by GIS data services. Experiences gathered in the course of recent emergencies involving either large areas or very high numbers of people have shown that, even in recent years, the coordination of rescue activities rarely, if not never, was able to take advantage from ICT tools. The main obstacles to data exchange are political attitudes and lack of interoperability services. As a consequence, whenever an uncommon scenario demands such data exchange, the resulting political pressure brings to either exchange data anyway, through improper (and potentially risky) means, or to avoid such data exchange (and miss the related advantages). The sole possibility to overcome such situation is to reach an agreement between the different authorities, aimed at converting and exchanging data in a common protocol, which can be read by non homogeneous systems. Such solution has been tested in Italy in several real-life situations: L'Aquila earthquake (2009), summer forest fire season (2009), Venice local emergency management (2008 – today) and in several well aimed exercises in Europe and U.S.A.
CAP in the IST project REACT
  • M Cristaldi
  • U Delprato
  • M Marzoli
Cristaldi, M., Delprato, U., & Marzoli, M. (n.d.). CAP in the IST project REACT. Retrieved from