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Computing & seismology

Cécile Michaut - 26/08/2011

Educating and warning the most vulnerable

Modeling earthquakes - Magique 3D - © Inria / Photo Kaksonen

In the event of a natural disaster, information is not always available to the disabled or the elderly. Inria is involved in the Japanese Urakawa project, which aims to develop special communication methods for these groups of people.

In Sendaï, the elderly were the most numerous victims of the Tsunami. Less mobile, but also less well-informed: "Studies in Japan have showed that half of the people were not informed of the warning or did not correctly follow the evacuation advice, despite the deployment of an elaborate system,”  emphasises Nabil Layaïda , a researcher at the Inria-Grenoble-Rhône-Alpes centre. “The major problem concerns access to information. The results of annual exercises have shown that the disabled know a lot less than other people about what they should do in the event of Tsunamis, landslides or earthquakes”.

To improve the efficiency of evacuation procedures, the Japanese governmental agency has worked with Inria on the Urakawa project . Urakawa is the name of a town with 20,000 inhabitants, in the north of Japan, which suffers from all types of natural disasters and which has a population with a very high average age and percentage of people with disabilities. "We have updated the formats of electronic documents that can be communicated using all types of media (television, radio, mobile phone) and which are accessible to individuals having very varied types of disability, so that warnings and evacuation procedures help as many people as possible,” explains Nabil Layaïda. These formats are also used to circulate natural disaster training manuals which can be adapted to each type of disability and to each individual (evacuation routes adapted to the place of residence, the location, the disability and evacuation plans adjusted according to the abilities of each person).

This cooperation has resulted in W3C standard multimedia documents, such as SMIL, being adapted and combined with other accessibility-related formats such as those developed by the DAISY consortium to cover disaster warning and training requirements. Remember that the SMIL format allows texts, sound and video recordings to be combined. Today, it is used as a format for MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) which allows texts, photos, videos or sound files to be sent on mobile phones. During the recent events in Japan, this pilot project was particularly effective. Today, the Japanese government is considering extending this system to other towns.

Keywords: 3-D visualisation Alerts Risk Prevention Earthquakes Nabil Layaïda Modelling Urakawa W3C