On the dates of 11 to 15th of May, the European Commission (COST Action TD1202: Mapping and the Citizen Sensor) organized a training school on Human Sensor and Geographic Information Systems for Disaster Risk Management (HSenSIG) hosted by the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers at University of Coimbra, Portugal.
Our colleague, Prof. João Porto Albuquerque was invited as keynote speaker. Also, by receiving a grant from COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), members from GIScience research group of Heidelberg University including Amin Mobasheri and Benjamin Herfort actively attended the training school. João gave a speech about the value and impact of using Volunteered Geographic Information for disaster management. Further, the talk was followed by an arranged simulation for disaster response activities which took place in the city of Coimbra. Participants of the training were divided into three groups acting as volunteers. Each group had specific task for collecting relevant geo-information that might be of value to main bodies of disaster responders including Police, Fire fighters, etc. The coordination of information provided by volunteers were done by people in the command and control center. The results and discussions made by the executive Chiefs of Fire brigade and Police after the simulation, showed that the collected geo-information from volunteers did really help them in their decision-making by means of assisting them to understand the real-time disaster situation better than before. It was discussed that VGI can be useful if the volunteers are well-organized.
Furthermore, visits to the physical sensor gauge installments near the rivers around and inside the city of Coimbra were planned. Plus, a hands-on exercise for mapping damaged buildings from satellite imagery was performed by the organizers. Based on the feedback from the school participants, this successful 5 day training school was full of scientific fruits to pick.