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US and European civil protection agencies explore greater cooperation, as natural disasters grow in strength and frequency

By PATRICK STEPHENSON , BRUSSELS – The year 2017 has proved deadly for natural catastrophes. Through the summer and early autumn, massive forest fires scorched vast areas of Spain, Portugal and Italy, windstorms caused fatalities in Germany and Poland in October, and unprecedented flooding hit Greece in November, killing more than 16 people. In response to each of these, the European Commission’s policy department for civil protection and humanitarian aid known as DG ECHO provided vital help. Across southern Europe, for example, it coordinated the provision of firefighting aircraft and EU satellite mapping images to national authorities. Across the Atlantic as Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico, DG ECHO activated the emergency management service of the EU’s Copernicus satellite system at the request of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Copernicus provided maps of flooding on the island to support relief efforts. Such cooperation…

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Horizon 2020 programme throws cash at cybersecurity-related security projects, hoping something will stick to the Dark Web

By PATRICK STEPHENSON, with BROOKS TIGNER, BRUSSELS – Among the measures included in European Commission’s cybersecurity package, adopted on 13 September 2017, is the goal of transforming the European Union Agency for Information Security (ENISA) into a new cybersecurity agency. The Commission is also pushing researchers to study new ways to tackle Europe’s burgeoning cybercrime threats. The need is great, to say the least. According to the EU, ransomware attacks increased by 300 per cent between 2015 and 2017, and may increase four-fold again by 2019. One of the workshops during the 6 December meeting of the Commission’s “Community of Users” (CoU) of security research stakeholders (see related article in this issue) focused on cybercrime, several related research projects and the eye-raising statistics that confront authorities in their efforts to combat it. As Michele Socco of the Commission’s home affairs directorate-generale (DG HOME) told the workshop, “65 percent of digital evidence is...