Summer/Autumn 2019 

Our second newsletter focuses on the relevance of technology and public engagement in IKIC.
Read on to find out what we've been up to over the summer!
A Case for the Integration of Innovative Technologies
Crisis and disaster preparedness framework toward resiliency overlaid on virtual reality background
Technological advancement and innovations have created new opportunities for enhancing resilience to crisis and disasters. Developments such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data, virtual reality, and innovations in areas such as drone technology are transforming many fields. The spread of digital infrastructure and devices, such as wireless networks, smartphones and cloud computing has provided stakeholders with opportunities for the application of these technologies to better prepare and manage the rising number of disaster and crisis situations. To combat new categories of disasters and build resilience against them, the need and inclusion of advanced technology is a must. It can minimise the challenges that can occur in response to cross-border man-made or natural disasters for emergency personnel, the general public and public servants.

While there are many crisis management preventative measures to employ, including crisis rehearsals or simulations and crisis planning, technology helps accelerate and expand access to critical data, systems and resources. Training is a vital part of preparing for a crisis effectively, however, it is important to provide access to this training in a dynamic way. Developing a virtual learning environment that integrates the benefits of technological innovations such as virtual reality is one way of doing this, forming an important goal of the IKIC consortium.

What about drones?
Innovations like drones support the management of crisis and disasters. They can help first responders understand a crisis situation, supporting them to gain a clearer picture of the scene and get to people in need of assistance faster. Drones provide high-resolution images of disaster-afflicted areas, with images able to be overlaid with data from the ground creating a hybrid areal image of a disaster situation. Their integration in response operations is still relatively new, but benefits are already realised. Their application relies on strategic planning and preparation, vital for timely response. 

Virtual Reality in the Meuse-Rhine Region 
We spoke to Stéphane Grade, a researcher with skills in virtual reality development, pedagogy and serious game design at the CECOTEPE (EPAMU) in Liege, Belgium. We asked Stéphane to give us an insight into how these skills are used in the IKIC project and their relevance in public safety, supporting resilience in the EUregio Muse-Rhine to cross border crisis and disaster. This is what he reports:

To have the synergy of informatics and content knowledge is good for the creation of serious games through virtual reality (VR). VR training aids save time, as personnel and students travelling across distances or the movement of resources no longer represent a logistical challenge. VR could therefore also be good for the environment.

Training through VR stimulates 'the feeling of presence', as it is more active and engaging than using a passive traditional online or PC based learning platform. With VR, the person or group being trained can perform gestures and interact with each other, the environment or tools and equipment present in the serious games. With VR, we can simulate very dangerous things (chemical spills, nuclear incidents, natural disasters) with zero risks; since it is virtual, there are absolutely no hazards.

Use of VR also provides results in terms of safety, soft skills, and decision making training. Inside the serious game, trainees can perform a tourniquet by pressing a virtual button. It means they can make a decision rapidly without the time cost of doing the technical action - people know how to perform bandages. VR trains soft skills, whilst practical training develops technical skills. We need the training of both and VR could lead to 'live training' having greater value. Learners arrive better prepared for large scale live simulation exercises from experiencing VR and having the opportunity to train non-technical skills.

Also, the idea that you can make people join from different countries in one single virtual place is a huge asset of VR. We can put staff from the fire department, nurses from hospitals, paramedics and civilians in the same environment in one place with all learning and interacting with each other at the same time. It essentially enables teleportation or more specifically "telepresence", with VR and serious games able to provide a multi-user, multi-disciplinary and multi-country training experience, whilst adding a social dimension.

For the public, a serious game scenario is along the lines of a virtual escape room in a school. This trains their non-technical skills by putting them into a crisis context. Do you hide, get out and run, or fight? This is easily accessible and can be loaded on a PC with a screen, monitor-based or with a VR headset. Vulnerable groups such as children or old people can then be dynamically informed on what to do in a public safety event. Essentially, VR supports IKIC Public Safety in helping to up-skill emergency personnel, public servants and the general public, creating a resilient region prepared to deal with crisis or disasters.

Non-technical Skills in Crisis and Disaster Preparedness
Meryl Hajaoui, Alexandre Ghuysen and Isabelle Bragard from Liege University have over the past months been working on a body of research centred on non-technical skills. Because of a worldwide increase in crises, there is a call to improve disaster management and education. Their work titled "School-based disaster preparedness: Are non-technical skills taught?" revealed that the mastery of soft skills proved valuable during crisis and disasters.
They also identified that simulation-based learning programmes play a key role in soft-skill training. But, while the school environment has become the place to be for disaster education, little is known about its content.
Following a literature review, Meryl, Alexandre and Isabelle concluded that soft-skills and simulation-based training are largely under-developed in schools. Existing initiatives remain too focused on classic teacher-centred approaches, and basic personal soft-skills knowledge. The team recommends that further work is needed to develop validated soft-skills simulation-based programmes for disaster management. 
IKIC Presence at European Events

In May, Joel, working at the Department for Safety and Radiation Protection at the Forschungszentrum Jülich presented a research poster at the Nuclear Medical Defence Conference (ConRad) in Munich. The topic was 'Initial measurements of Iodine-131 in the thyroid in case of radiological emergencies – cross-border harmonisation'.

In case of a nuclear incident, there may be a release of radioactive material into civilian residential areas. In nuclear reactors, one of these isotopes can be Iodine, which has beneath the stable form (Iodine-127), some radioactive isotopes. One of these radioactive isotopes is Iodine-131, which will accumulate in the thyroid after intake and can cause adverse health outcomes.

What does this mean for the IKIC Project? Joel says: "During my work in the IKIC project, it is one of my tasks to compare the measurement devices which are available at different fire departments in the three countries. Afterwards, I will work out a concept to teach firefighters in a cross-birder manner to support measurements at the thyroid when needed". 

ConRad2019 was hosted by the Bundeswehr Institute of Radiobiology affiliated to the University of Ulm, in Munich Germany. The conference focused on the latest developments in radiation preparedness, a theme important in the IKIC project. Under this theme, topics coved aspects of radiation protection to disaster medicine during this 
scientific and practice-orientated event.

Understanding Citizens Concerns and Needs - IKIC Joins Neighbourhood Dialogue in Maastricht
Attending to citizen’s knowledge and concerns regarding emergency services and public safety in the region is an important component of the work of IKIC. On Wednesday 18th September, IKIC joined the Maastricht University’s project ‘Universiteit met de Buurt’ (University in the Neighbourhood) for a neighbourhood meeting in the Northwestern part of Maastricht. Marieke Lamme (Coordinator Emergency Room Acute Care for GGD South-Limburg), Marc Smeets, (Coordinator of the 112 Dispatch Centre for Limburg), and Dr. Jochen Jansen (Medical Director of the service), met on invitation from IKIC with community leaders to learn about the concerns residents have in their neighbourhood and to identify points for further improvements of the well-functioning emergency services in their city.

A spirited discussion took place and residents were very happy to get the opportunity to directly interact with the public safety authorities. One concern that was discussed in detail was the need for continuous and short-term updates of the Geographic Information Systems in the Dispatch Centre that guides ambulances on the shortest route to the correct address of an emergency scene. This is especially relevant in areas where street names and traffic regulations for access change frequently.
Researchers from IKIC carefully observed and analysed the meeting to gain a better understanding of the best format for future neighbourhood dialogues in the Euregio Maas-Rhine (EMR). A questionnaire was administered to reveal knowledge gaps and training needs for the general public. IKIC project manager Celine Ledoux pointed out: “This was a unique opportunity for IKIC to link with our colleagues from the Universiteit met de Buurt project, who have established trust and common understanding with the citizens in the neighbourhoods they have been working in for quite some time. We are also grateful to Jochen Jansen, 
Marieke Lamme and Marc Smeets, who showed great commitment and interest to engage in this important dialogue. IKIC will now set up a training module for public safety authorities in the EMR for engaging in citizen’s dialogues.”
(L) Neighbourhood meeting in the North West Maastricht. (R) Community leaders explaining their concerns.
Toward Effective Public Engagement
Effective communication informs people about the benefits, risks, and costs of their decisions, supporting them to make informed choices. Educational and training programs developed by IKIC are created with three groups in mind. This includes the general public as one of IKIC's key target audiences. Building capacity, fostering trust and achieving a shared understanding of how to act in a crisis or disaster in the cross-border EUregio Meuse-Rhine is an approach used to up-skill this group. It is especially the case for vulnerable populations including the elderly and youths. Part of this involves community outreach to observe and define needs and concerns, as well as inviting the public to take part in training sessions. 

In the coming weeks, IKIC partner Forschungszentrum Jülich will host a series of events to train and inform the public. On 26 September and 14 November, Belgian school children will travel across borders to learn about radiation and radioactivity. Additionally, teacher training on similar themes will take place on 12-13 November. The module provides schoolchildren with information about natural radiation sources, different types of radiation, and nuclear energy. Additionally, an information event for interested members of the public takes place on 11 October at the CT2 Center for Teaching and Training in Aachen. From 7pm until 9pm, three experts will give lectures on natural and civilizational radiation exposures, radiation exposure in emergency scenarios and the organisation of emergency management. After the lectures, there will be time for a short question and discussion session.  
Upcoming Conferences and Symposia

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