DECAT Platform: Early Warning & Alert Systems with GeoNode, GeoServer and MapStore

Dear Reader,

in this post we want to talk about how we twisted and extended GeoNodeGeoServer, and MapStore to build a platform for emergency response and early warning for the DeCATastrophize European Project (acronym DECAT).

DECAT Project

Effective systems for early warning, mitigation of impacts, and emergency management can save lives and protect people, property and the environment in the event of natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the DECAT project is to design, implement and operate a geospatial decision support system to assess, prepare for and respond to multiple and/or simultaneous natural and man-made hazards and disasters in a synergistic way. The DECAT platform provides:

  • Workflows and functionalities for early warning and rapid notification for risk resilience at all levels
  • Methodologies for rapid assessment and mitigation of impacts and decision-making through rapid mapping
  • Ability to disseminate geospatial data and information about various types of multi-hazards
  • Dedicated capabilities aimed to support impact assessment as well as emergency management based on activities suitable for overall operational scenarios

The types of hazards that were taken into account is extensive and so is the scenarios which the platform was tested; the list of hazards comprehends the following:

  • Wildfire
  • Tsunami
  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Oil Spill

Tests were conducted in Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Cyprus to evaluate the capabilities of the developed platform.

The DECAT Platform

The DECAT platform is composed by a few modules designed to support the needs of the three main phases of emergency management, in the order:

  • Early Warning, during which events are collected and analyzed in order to understand if we are facing of a real hazard or a false alarm
  • Impact Assessment, which triggers once an event has been confirmed to be an hazard  to model, under the guidance of a domain expert, the impact of an hazards on various targets
  • Mitigation of Impact, which deals with the management of the emergency derived from the impact of the to mitigate its impact.

The platform comprises also of a few additional modules providing horizontal functionalities that are needed by all three modules above (e.g. document management, geospatial data management, user management and the like).

Decat Platform Modules

Decat Platform Modules

The above modules provide the operators with specific tools and customized layouts for each phase of emergency management.

The Early Warning module provides the operator with wizards to create, edit and update so called events which represent potential hazards occurring inside his area of competence; this is supported via geospatial tools to edit point features and record ancillary information useful to characterize events and assess the level of hazard, generally used to revise and debrief the emergency response. Each event can be searched, modified and updated, to evolve to an occurrence treating the community or back to ordinary conditions. In the first case, it will be promoted and notified as early warning, otherwise it will be archived (see below); once an event is promoted the other phases are enabled and the entire workflow to assess the impact and manage the emergency comes to life.

Early Warning User Interface

Early Warning User Interface


As mentioned above, once an event is confirmed (i.e. an earthquake has struck somewhere) the impact assessment phase triggers in order to evaluate and model the hazard as well as to assess its evolution and impact over time. The Impact assessment module allows the impact assessor (i.e. a domain expert with scientific background and experience regarding effects and losses occurring because of a specific type of disaster) to evaluate the context and the environment where the event is taking place, providing by modelling or pre-formulated scenario analyses, additional geospatial information, reports and documents useful to properly identify and locate specific needs of rescue and recovery interventions. This module has been designed to permit the creation and update of the so-called Common Operational Picture (COP) for the emergency managers, which is an evolving geospatial representation of the hazards integrated with preliminary localization of rescue and recovery targets, by integrating relevant hazard models outputs in real-time.
The impact assessor has the possibility to create a reference map (the COP) for the emergency management coupling hazards modelling together with geospatial information relevant for emergency plan implementation (e.g. gathering areas, field hospital location, command and control field unit) as well as targets needing urgent intervention. The symbols used to visualize the feature can be adapted to the subject and changed according to its specific evolution. The COP can then be frozen to a specific instant, and shared with the emergency managers, responsible to assign rescue or recovery targets to work-force teams (see below), however the impact assessor can, at any time, perform a new assessment by updating information in the active COP to create an updated one that would more closely represent the current situation.

Impact Assessment User Interface

Impact Assessment User Interface at work for the Paphos flood

The last set of functionalities is related to the coordination of field workforce and Emergency Management; thanks to this module the platform provides the emergency managers with capabilities to collaboratively (and concurrently) manage online, directly on the COP geospatial features representing allocated teams, customized according to the type of workforce they belong. Such geospatial features can be updated over time to capture the status of resources engaged with the rescue operations on the field (see figure below) as well as the changing conditions on the field. Moreover, updates of the COP generated by newer impact assessment to capture the evolution of the disaster can be published at any time by the impact assessor and they will refresh background information used by the emergency managers.

Emergency Management User Interface

Emergency Management user interface at work for the Paphos flood

Technologies and building blocks

The DECAT platform is implemented by leveraging on a few on well-known Open Source building blocks like GeoServer, GeoNode and MapStore, as shown below. GeoServer provides advanced geospatial data management and mapping capabilities according to the OGC Web Map Services (WMS), Web Coverage Services (WCS) and Web Feature Services (WFS) protocols while GeoNode acts as a broker for the data providing OGC Catalogue Services (CSW) capabilities, acting as the catalog for data and metadata discovery. MapStore is used as the mapping and visualization engine and provides geospatial visualization functionalities over the data ingested into the DSS by interacting with OGC protocols.

DECAT Platform Components

DECAT Platform Components

Authentication is provided through the support for OAUTH 2.0 protocol having GeoNode play the provider role (i.e. being responsible for the management of users’ credentials and live sessions) hence it takes care of creating and expiring users’ sessions as well as of managing access permission over the ingested geospatial data in coordination with GeoServer. In its default configuration data is private and accessible only to the publisher and the users within his organization. Several additional modules have been implemented during the project to create the DECAT DSS by extending the GeoNode and MapStore frameworks. The user-interface has been completely redesigned to follow a three phases approach during the management of the emergency, where specific back-end modules have been developed in GeoNode to manage alerts and hazards, to perform and disseminate impact assessments associated to hazards, up to the annotations used by emergency managers to support resource allocation to targets in the field.

Conclusions and way forward

A final Table Top / Command Post exercise was conducted in the area of Paphos, Cyprus to assess the utility and usability of the DECAT Platform in disaster preparedness and response. The main objective of the exercise was to test the platform in realistic scenarios to evaluate its impact on existing decision making processes during emergency situations. The tested scenarios included a wildfire threatening the forest of Paphos, nearby villages and other infrastructure as well as an heavy rainfall in the Town of Paphos with a great danger for floods. The DECAT platform was used in order to extract and provide valuable information to the decision makers during the exercise, all the three phases of the platform were used and successfully presented (Early Warning, Impact Assessment and Emergency Management).

Flood and fire hazards in DECAT DSS for Cyprus

Flood and fire hazards in DECAT Platform for Cyprus

The DECAT Platform has been an important step for GeoSolutions in order to strenghten its knowledge on the GeoNode framework given the size and depth of the customizations, moreover it allowed us to perform a first integration between MapStore and GeoNode which is part of our overall strategy for the future of GeoNode. Some of the implemented functionalities and fixes have been already contributed to the respected projects (e.g. map annotations developed to manage field resources during the emergency management phase are now port of MapStore and so are a large number of GeoNode fixes and improvements).

For those who are interested, the DECAT Platform is still up and running here (mind you, this is a snaphot of the cloud instance used during the tests so most data is password protected.; however, most data is not open to the public hence if you are interested in having a look we can schedule a demo. Last but not least, the source code is, obviously, Open Source like everything we do here at GeoSolutions. This work was cofinanced by DG-ECHO under the DECAT European project.


If you are interested in learning about how we can help you achieving your goals with open source products like GeoServerMapStoreGeoNode and GeoNetwork through our Enterprise Support Services and GeoServer Deployment Warranty offerings, feel free to contact us!

The GeoSolutions Team,