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07 29 2021

NCI Agency volunteers provide critical support following devastating floods

After torrential rainfall of unprecedented intensity caused devastating flash floods in western Europe, staff from the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) volunteered to deploy to Germany to offer assistance.

Civilian disaster management is similar to running military operations – an area where NCI Agency experts can help. For this reason, members of the NCI Agency's Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance team, specifically the Geospatial Branch, offered to deploy to one the hardest hit districts in Germany to provide support.

NCI Agency volunteers provide critical support following devastating floods

Photo Courtesy of Bundeswehr/Tom Twardy

"Emergency operations depend on situational awareness, robust communications and information management for decision-making at various echelons. Clearing the 'fog' of confusion in any emergency is vital to success," said John Teufert, the Geospatial Branch Head, and one of several Agency experts who deployed to the scene.

Packed with a laptop containing all relevant geospatial information, including before and after flood satellite imagery and aerial photography, the team reported to the district administrator of Euskirchen, Germany. The team was immediately embedded within the district's crisis management organization. Within hours, a district-wide Geographic Information System (GIS) had been created and real time disaster management data entered into the system. A dedicated information manager was assigned and worked with the Geospatial Branch team around the clock.

"Dynamic problem solving, creativity, quick understanding of the issues and clear prioritization were key," Teufert said.

The GIS system the team had established payed off quickly. For example, one challenge of the district crisis management organization was to obtain and maintain an overview of the road status of the entire district for efficient employment of rescue services. Data collected by local teams was transmitted to the district, where it was entered into a digital mapping system and made available for dispatch management to optimize routing of emergency teams according to the latest situation on the ground.

Once the GIS system was up and running and simple processes were established, Agency experts handed over the system to German military GIS operators for them to continue their rescue mission in the district.

Photo by John Teufert