New open-source software that decrypts social media messages to help manage risk and disaster


Use social media analytics to address existing challenges

Say you’re an emergency responder and you see a social media post showing an unusable road in a place not covered by mainstream news. Suppose you see a similar message from multiple accounts. Wouldn’t you wonder if they were referring to the same event or if this area deserved a more detailed analysis with a satellite image?

It is in this spirit that the scientists of the JRC have helped to face the 2021 earthquake in Haiti using social media data analysis to complement impact assessment immediately after the earthquake.

This experience was the first real-world use case of a software platform capable of scanning millions of social media texts and images per day for situational awareness and impact assessment. This information is collected, filtered and geocoded automatically and in real time using machine learning (artificial intelligence) models.

Software that helps responders in flood risk management

The first objective of this platform was to provide an additional geospatial layer in the European flood warning system (EFAS) and the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS). These two online systems offer flood forecasts based on model simulations which are essential for the Copernicus emergency management services managed by the JRC.

The monitoring capability of these early warning systems is mainly anchored in satellite images and numerical models. Integrating this new Social Media for Disaster Risk Management (SMDRM) software will allow them to assess the likelihood and impacts of a flood with even greater accuracy. .

An open-source tool accessible to all researchers and technicians

The new layer for EFAS and GloFAS is the first product developed using SMDRM software. However, since the software was released as open-source – free and open to all technicians related to crisis response who wish to take advantage of it – scientists expect a wider use of it and remain available for collaboration.

SMDRM software can be scaled to different scales and label relevant images for floods, storms, earthquakes and fires, providing valuable information for reports or descriptions of the situation on or near the ground .

Technicians or researchers working on map development can use the code to find more data to improve or confirm their findings and supplement information extracted from traditional sensors or Earth observation sources.

Software that connects citizens to disaster risk management

Data from the SMDRM software helps confirm if an event is occurring and where exactly the hardest hit locations are.

This is a clear example of how social media and active citizenship can contribute to disaster risk management, as they help crisis responders improve their situational awareness immediately after an event.

Background: Global and European Flood Awareness Systems

The JRC supports emergency preparedness and response to floods at European and global level. This is achieved through the provision of early warnings, risk and impact assessments, and flood monitoring through European and global flood awareness systems. Both systems are fully operational under the Copernicus Emergency Management Service.


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