Automatized fire and flood warning system to come soon

A significant increase in extreme weather phenomena has been observed in Greece over the past few years that has wrought a trail of destruction across the country. All over the planet, the frequency of natural disasters has doubled since 1980, while this country is annually plagued by a rash of fires during the hot, dry summer season. Researchers at the University of the Aegean thus deemed it imperative to set up a fire and flood warning system which would «support decisions made by operational centers in cases of flooding or forest fires,» Assistant Professor Costas Kalambokidis, who heads the program, told Kathimerini. The Automatized Fire and Flood Protection System, the brainchild of the Geography Laboratory for Natural Disasters at the Geography Department of the Aegean University, is a fire forecast tool much like the weather forecast of the National Meteorological Service. The program collates geological and meteorological data, with a smattering of socioeconomic facts, in order to arrive at a quantitative estimate of the risk of fire or flooding. In terms of research, the system is ready for use by the Fire Brigade and Civil Defense Service (YPP) in any area, be it on an island or the mainland. It will replace the hitherto empirical approach of the above two services, Kalambokidis explained. Hazard maps that have been issued by the YPP until now have marked areas as high, low or medium risk. The new system will be more specific, assessing risk numerically on a scale of 0-100 with detailed charts of certain areas. Estimates of risk will depend on factors such as the weather, vegetation, land relief, the fuel used in every area and human activity. «On Samos, for example, where a pilot scheme is trying out the program, the property-ownership status quo goes some way toward explaining a greater number of fires,» Kalambokidis explained. At the same time, cameras will be set up wherever feasible to watch over forest areas. The system will also monitor wind speeds and direction through automatized meteorological measurements included in the program. The flood warning system rests chiefly on land relief surveys and predictions of extreme weather conditions. Thus, a possible fire forecast is followed by estimates of changes in the soil that are likely to lead to flooding, including the destruction of protective plant cover which would reduce the ability of the soil to absorb and retain water – a basic cause of flooding.

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