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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Risk management and early warning system

Digital tools to improve disaster management.

The town of Rio de Janeiro is particularly vulnerable to disasters due to heavy rainfall that leads to landslides and flooding because of massive urban sprawl. From 2010, the municipal council and civil defence (responsible for coordinating all the emergency service efforts) rallied to prevent the impact of flooding and landslides.

The town chose to develop an Early Warning System – EWS, first of all by classifying the risks on the residential, developed zones. A team mapped the areas exposed to landslides on a Google Earth map with monthly updates.

The municipality then installed additional rain gauges in the town and a weather radar to develop climate models that were monitored continuously. The data is centralised in the centre of operations in Rio developed with the company IBM. The town has installed sirens in the at risk zones and an SMS service was set up to send alerts to the members of the communities with basic training in civil defence or who expressed an interest.

To promote the awareness of the population particularly exposed to risks, detailed mapping was carried out, identifying the people with specific needs living in the at risk zones (favelas and cheap residential areas). Health officers were distributed to these areas to promote awareness in the inhabitants. These works were also an opportunity to carry out a census of the population to account for the people in safety during a disaster.

Lessons learnt

  • Continuously updated data collection accelerates knowledge of the territories and vulnerable population groups.
  • Simple communication mechanisms (SMS) and digital mediation (agents) provide quicker response times and facilitate exchanges between authority and inhabitant.

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Urban and spatial planning for the most vulnerable

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