Airbus Defence and Space

Emergency response – the SAFER way

The service provides rescue teams with the essential information they need

European Union's SAFER service is coordinated by Airbus Defence and Space

Floods in Pakistan, forest fires in Greece, the earthquake in Haiti … these are just some examples of major natural disasters for which emergency teams require reliable situational awareness, as rapidly as possible. The SAFER (Services and Applications For Emergency Response) project is designed to meet this need through the rapid production of maps based on satellite images to assist the authorities and civil protection services in charge of the relief effort.

SAFER is managed by Spot Image and draws upon the skills and expertise of 54 entities specialising in risk management and Earth observation from 16 countries. The consortium comprises end users (civil protection services from a number of European countries, NGOs), service providers (such as Spot Image, Sertit, Telespazio), space agencies and research institutions.

SAFER was set up in January 2009 and began initial operations in April 2009. Teams are on duty around the clock: as soon as a civil protection service puts in a request for the service to be activated, SAFER triggers satellite image programming and issues reference maps in six hours, as well as situational awareness maps (the aim here being to deliver this information in less than 24 hours in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin and in 36 hours for the rest of the world), along with crisis monitoring products and theme-specific geo-information depending on the type of event. In addition to supporting emergency response, SAFER also provides services to help with reconstruction and rehabilitation, as well as tools which contribute to improving crisis prevention. Ensuring that all operational processes – from emergency data acquisition to delivering information to decision-makers and in-situ personnel, and, of course, the interface with the end users – are the best they can be is crucial. Spot Image’s coordination of all involved and the responsiveness of the satellite operators and data providers, in particular Spot Image, mean that images can be accessed extremely rapidly, and this in turn enables the products to be delivered on time.

Since April 2009, the service has been activated more than 30 times in Europe and elsewhere in the world (in the event of storm Xynthia in France, earthquakes in Haiti and Indonesia, forest fires). On several occasions, this was done in close collaboration with the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, via a cooperation agreement set up between SAFER and the Charter’s Supervisory Council.

Although this three-year project is still in the GMES pre-operational phase, SAFER’s first year of service has already demonstrated both how well the model works and that Europe has the capacity to strengthen the effective assistance it can provide in the event of natural disasters and humanitarian crises. In addition to SAFER, Spot Image aims to play a central role in organising and running the GMES crisis management service.


Geoinformation ServicesSpot Image