Tech Saving Lives: Emergency Warning Systems

27 March 2019

On 20 February, Lambert van Nistelrooij MEP and EIF Programming Committee co-chair hosted an EIF debate on how modern technologies can warn and protect EU citizens in case of emergency.

MEP van Nistelrooij started by highlighting the importance of these modern emergency warning systems, which are now part of the legal telecom framework and are adopted worldwide, as you can immediately be contacted and located in case of danger. 

Gyula Bara of DG CNECT stated that, from the European Commission’s perspective, it is the fellow citizens who actually save lives and the question is what kind of tools we put in their hands, what information is needed in order to make the intervention more effective in both requests for emergencies and communication toward citizens in case of a major disaster: “The European Commission is working closely with BEREC to assess current technologies and to guide Member States to deploy the most effective and efficient technologies”.

Manuel Cornelisse
of One2Many offered an overview of what the EU Alert is: the European standard fulfilling the EECC requirements in order to build public warning systems fit for purpose. The design criteria take the human element into account. It needs to: 1. Always work, especially when networks are overpopulated; 2. Be fast, as time is of the essence (address millions in a few seconds); 3. Be location specific; 4. Respect people’s privacy; 5. Come by default in all devices; 6. Be secure (only governments should send the alert); 7. Work on all existing and upcoming networks; 8. Be compatible with other emergency management tools across the globe.

Another example of how technology can save lives was brought forward by entrepreneur Rob Kuipers, founder of X-Guard. Mr. Kuipers stated that the motivation behind creating X-Guard was the need to act quickly toward helping people in danger, before it is too late. X-Guard works as an ‘Uber for security’: “when you have an emergency, you push the button and professional guards in your area will be notified on their devices about your location and they can come and help you”.

The speech of Onno Hansen Staszynski from EZZEV Foundation focused on the challenges of the ‘human component’: “People have low trust in government messages, do not react at once and there is a big problem related to their digital privacy. Citizens are slow to understand and adopt new technologies, they expect interaction and not a top-down approach”. According to Mr. Staszynski, two possible solutions would be ‘personalised emergency messages’ (tailored messages that would help shorten the time to react) and a ‘community or group approach’ (use social media to reach people, although it might prove difficult to distinguish the signal from the noise).

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