To get a handle on crisis situations you need volunteers from the general population. The KOKOS project investigates how volunteers' help can be incorporated into the crisis management efforts of public bodies. Research is focusing on IT supported and systematic integration of existing structures such as associations, companies and citizens' initiatives.
Lengthy power outages, severe storms or large scale flooding such as happened in Southern Germany in 2013: they all show our society's vulnerability to damaging events. In order to react as effectively as possible to these events responders need to be properly coordinated. In large scale events it is sensible to get the authorities, companies, public safety organizations (BOS) and the general public working together, giving people security and an ability to help themselves that goes beyond expensive investments in infrastructure.
Concepts for involving civil groups in crisis management
The University of Stuttgart's Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT, which collaborates closely with Fraunhofer IAO, is involved in numerous national and international research projects dealing with cross-organizational information processes, mobile applications and the modeling and simulation of crisis management and volunteer management. Based on its "Research for civil security" program, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is providing 1.7 million euros of funding to the KOKOS project to support volunteer cooperation in complex scenarios. This project's aim is to develop methods, technical concepts and IT tools that involve the public -- and civil bodies such as associations in particular -- as active partners in crisis management, and to seek fruitful cooperation.
Using existing structures for crisis management Efforts are focused on making use of the available societal, economic and civil structures such as sports clubs, associations, churches and companies. For instance, if critical infrastructure regarding food chain was disrupted, food bank employees could use their wealth of logistical experience to help supply the population with what they need. "We are looking into existing self-help practices to determine what motivates volunteers to cooperate with official channels. The goal is to assist people locally to help themselves in a crisis situation," says Patrick Drews, project manager at the IAT of the University of Stuttgart. This assistance has to come from concepts and tools that encourage cooperation among public safety organizations and volunteer bodies.
Project partners include the Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT of the University of Stuttgart as well as the Institutes for Business Informatics and Media Research of the University of Siegen, software provider VOMATEC International GmbH, software developer Ruatti Systems GmbH and a range of user organizations including the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein, the Workers' Samaritan Foundation, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief, the German Federal Association of Volunteer Agencies, the German Federal Association of Clubs and Associations and the German Protestant Kirchentag. Interested societies, companies, organizations and individuals are welcome to get involved at any stage.
Materials provided by Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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