Groups ready for disaster drill to use social media

Thousands of participants expected in simulated earthquake response in Balkans

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated March 8, 2011, to correct the event's sponsor, San Diego State University's Immersive Visualization Center.

Online participants from around the world are expected to be tweeting, posting Facebook status updates and using open-source geographic tagging applications during the upcoming Exercise-24 Europe online disaster drill in the Balkans starting March 28.

The five-day virtual exercise is sponsored by San Diego State University’s Immersive Visualization Center and includes participation from the U.S. European Command, National Institute of Urban Search and Rescue, Sahana Foundation and Humanity Road, along with vendors, application developers and other groups.

The scenario is a simulated earthquake in the Balkans, followed by a tsunami in the Adriatic Sea that damages key resources and critical shoreline infrastructure in several countries.


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Open-source software tools are expected to be used, such as GeoChat, which allows for data to be transmitted in low-bandwidth situations, and Crisis Commons, which allows for geotagging of data. The exercise will take place in a cloud computing environment, and Facebook, Twitter and other feeds will relate disaster information, which will be processed and mapped to identify where people are and what they need and to assess damage to critical infrastructure so that aid can be targeted. Cybersecurity also will be tested.

All tweets and public postings are to be accompanied by the words “X-24 Not Real” to make it clear that the disaster is simulated.

“The purpose of X24 Europe is to conduct a robust virtual online exercise that demonstrates the effective use of social media, crowdsourcing and collaboration tools in an innovative and cost-effective cloud computing environment," according to a news release. "The exercise will focus on the exchange of actionable real-time information and build partner organizations’ awareness regarding response to simulated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief crises in the European theater."

The drill is open-ended, and any interested participants are invited to register and join in the event to explore solutions.

The most recent X-24 drill was sponsored in September 2010 at the visualization center in San Diego, simulating an earthquake and tsunami in Baja, Mexico. That event drew 12,500 participants from 90 organizations in 79 countries.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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