Author: R. Guillande

Share your descriptions of disasters and catastrophes impacts using your smartphone application Signalert available in Arabic: crowdmapping maps for Arabic-speaking countries

Source(s): Signalert Sarl

The application uses participatory maps for natural and technological disasters, crisis management and early risk warning, SIGNALERT is now available in the Arabic language on both the Appstore and Google Play. It has been deployed in Tunisia as part of a project funded by the Disaster Preparedness Program - DIPECHO and led by Expertise France, where the free Arabic version of the application is available and accessible by the public and preserves the rights and the personal data of the users according to the European GDPR standards.

Translated to "Modern Standard Arabic" for easy access by Arabic-speaking users

SIGNALERT App has been made available in several languages since its launch, and in 2020 it was translated into Haitian Creole for the system acquisition by the Haitian Civil Protection department, and today Modern Standard Arabic has been selected for the translation of the SIGNALERT application using participatory mapping, making the tool accessible to the greatest number of Arabic-speaking users, in Morocco, Middle East.

As a social network, the application allows the exchange of locations and descriptions of natural or man-made disasters in real time, carrying potential or announced threats on people, property, infrastructure, and the environment.

There are 18 natural phenomena that can now be shared with the SIGNALERT application:

  1. Floods
  2. Torrential Floods
  3. Avalanches
  4. Heavy snowfall
  5. Forest fires
  6. Rockslides
  7. Earthquakes
  8. Tornadoes / Hurricanes / Typhoons /
  9. Land flooding / Coastal erosions
  10. Tornadoes
  11. Tsunamis
  12. Volcanic eruptions
  13. Landslides
  14. Extreme Heat Waves
  15. Drought
  16. Extreme temperatures
  17. Heavy rainfall
  18. Locust infestation

And 8 disasters of man-made or technological origin:

  1. Violence and unrest
  2. Marine and beach pollution
  3. Illegal landfills
  4. Accidents / Road or Transportation
  5. Fires and explosions
  6. Air quality
  7. Attacks
  8. Health crises

For some phenomena, the user can describe the level of intensity by using intensity scales and markers or certain characteristic signs that are easily recognizable by anyone anywhere, without putting yourself in danger. Advices for appropriate behavior are proposed on the application for 7 of these phenomena.

After being tested in Tunisia in early 2021, the application has been made available free for everyone on Google Play and Appstore since February.

Can be used by any citizen, by civil protection or rescue actors, while keeping the identity and personal data of users protected

The users of the app can get warnings of nearby dangers, share their descriptions of alerts in real time and access alerts that are posted by others nearby, and redirect them to social networks. The identity of the user who published the alert remains anonymous.

The shared alerts can be accessed via web services such as municipalities or fire departments, rescuers and civil protection services that subscribed for the surveillance of their territory.

In Tunisia, large areas within the territorial zone of Bousalem and Tataouine municipalities are being monitored through the application and support the civil protection reserves created within the framework of the DIPECHO project, and managed by the municipality and the National Office of Civil Protection ( ONPC). These reserves include citizens, officials and volunteers from different associations. SIGNALERT web services have automated controllers capable of detecting and notifying about occurring events, and consists of several alerts that can be triggered by the users of the application. The system is a true early warning system based on testimonials of the application's users.

Shared alerts and photos remain anonymous, and users can add their own opinion or a comment to a specific alert. The SIGNALERT application complies with the rules imposed in France (NCIL) and in Europe (GDPR) regarding identity and personal data protection. Signalert does not require anything other than an email and optionally a phone number. Accessing all the functions of the application may require telephone numbers or emails of your emergency contacts and this information will only be shared with you. At any time, geolocation may be activated or deactivated from within the application and thus no permanent tracking of users is enabled (Geolocation is only enabled at the moment when an alert is sent by the user through the application). No advertising is imposed through the application and identity of alerts authors is never exchanged with third parties. Only the content of the alerts can be relayed by you or by the web services users, all while remaining anonymous.

Precise mapping of areas that are exposed to natural hazards, is still underdeveloped in the Arabic-speaking regions and particularly in North Africa.

Regular production of accurate maps may be followed by their immediate integration into the SIGNALERT application. As a result, a flood hazard mapping of the Tataouine city in Tunisia has been integrated. Thanks to the smartphone's geolocation, the user of the application knows at any time whether or not he is within a flood zone by consulting the main menu map which is centered on his position.

From the field and during the event, the witness shares his description of the situation that is being observed through the application. In return, the authorities can send him notifications, text messages, or even voice messages through the additional tool SECURITY CHECK.

SECURITY CHECK: upward and downward early warning.

The SECURITY CHECK tool complements the essential web analysis and the detection of events, with the ability to resend messages to the field either through the application, or by SMS or voice message. The platform makes it even possible to separate a certain group of users and send them notifications and in return receive their updates regarding their exposure to dangers or needs of assistance during an actual or an upcoming threat and collect their feedback. SECURITY CHECK makes it also possible to send a massively warning messages

to different groups with predefined recipients or to every user that registered on the online platform and enabled on their smartphone the reception of the notifications which can be sent by authorities. Users who do not wish to receive notifications for vigilance or warning messages, can deactivate the notifications option located in their smartphone settings.

With SIGNALERT everyone can contribute to the early detection, description and reduction of the impact of both low or high intensity events, being fast or slow, anticipated or not, and at any location.

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