The European Forum for Distaster Risk Reduction addresses Cultural Heritage: Resilience and Risk Reduction

The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) forms the regional platform structure of Europe of the UNISDR, the U.N.  Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The 2018 meeting, of the Forum has been held in Rome on November 21-23.
The two days meeting has been organised within the 2015-2020 European Roadmap for the implementation of the Sendai Framework. The Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is the new 15-year agreement to manage disaster risk adopted at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction endorsed by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 69/283. The Sendai Framework is innovative for its clear shift from managing disasters to managing risks.
The agenda of the Forum, among others, has addressed the topic “reducing risk to cultural heritage”.  In particular, two sessions have dealt with the problem of Cultural Heritage:


The ResCult project
The session has hosted the final conference of the ResCult project (“Increasing resilience of cultural heritage: a supporting decision tool for the safeguarding of cultural assets”), which has been  devoted to “enhance the capability of Emergency Management Authorities and Operators to prevent and mitigate natural hazard impacts on cultural heritage”.
The project key outcome is the European Interoperable Database (EID), an on-line tool designed to provide a unique framework for different stakeholders (Civil Protection, Firefighters, Cultural Heritage Owners, Policy and Decision Makers and more) to support disaster risk reduction strategies planning and implementation.
Components of the European Interoperable System (EID)
Reducing risk to cultural heritage – Organizing team leaders: Corila, Italy and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Cultural heritage is a unique, irreplaceable and unfortunately, vulnerable resource. We must plan how best to reduce the risks to the heritage in our care, and then act on those plans. This is in the limelight of 2018 being the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Tangible and intangible heritage alongside traditional knowledge are key to this mission. There has been a multitude of events, case- studies and texts that provide for a rich and diverse knowledge base for action.
Two strands can be identified: cultural heritage as an “end” or a “means”. Where the “end” relates to heritage as the object to be safeguarded, it is the ‘means’ that underlines the Council of Europe approach in the context of the 2005 Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.
For the “means” there are two important issues related to prevention, relief and recovery.
1. Acknowledgment by all citizens of their cultural heritage assets (including local traditions and history) and community participation stressing the local identities and needs in the mapping process as an act of prevention and means to ensure fast recovery.
2. Ensuring the inclusive approach through participation and engagement of these groups in the community-based planning and programming processes where their needs, priorities and response are taken into account.
This is crucial for the recovery of the collective community spirit and for encouraging solidarity and resilience in future actions. Consequently, cultural heritage plays its role of bringing communities together. These two strands can be summarized as the Culture of Resilience and the Resilience of
Culture. The panel session will invite five experts to debate on a few major topics regarding risk reduction to cultural heritage and the direction of future actions:
1. enhanced preparedness, improved coordination and response;
2. capacity-building, education and awareness raising;
3. disaster risk management;
4. economic recovery and the need for an accountable and systematic evaluation of economic losses;
5. promoting innovation related to emerging technologies able to support decision-makers.
An interesting description of the sessions from Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Alex Whiting can be found here.

CURE: an UNESCO – World Bank Group Position Paper on Cultural Heritage and Reconstruction

CURE (Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery) is a position paper published in 2018 by UNESCO and the  World Bank Group that offers, according the foreword (Mr Enrico Ottone and Mr Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez), “a framework on Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery and operational guidance for policymakers and practitioners for the planning, financing, and implementation phases of post-crisis interventions for city reconstruction and recovery“.

The document can be downloaded either by the UNESCO website or the World Bank website,

In the document the growing, unprecedented, urbanization, together with the increase of frequency of natural caused disaster, are considered to be exposing  both the urban areas and people’s collective memories and symbols of their cultural identities to a particuarly severe risk. Conflicts are worsening such risk, since Cultural Heritage has grown as one of the first target of terrorism and wars.

The Executive Summary of the paper states that “the CURE Framework is a culture-based approach to the process of city reconstruction and recovery in post conflict, post disaster and urban distress situations that accounts for the needs, values and priorities of people. It provides a roadmap for post-crisis economic devel- opment and the management of complex social, spatial, and economic transformations, while addressing the shortcomings of current reconstruction and recovery processes and enhancing their effectiveness and sustainability.

The seven priciple of the CURE paper

The studies carried out the draw the paper has lead the authors to summarize in seven principle the approach to reconstruction of urban areas:

– Principle 1. Acknowledging the city as a “cultural construct” where built structures and open spaces are closely linked to the social fabric.

– Principle 2. Starting the reconciliation process with the (re)construction of cultural landmarks and places of significance to local communities.

– Principle 3. Fostering cultural expressions to offer appropriate ways to deal with post-crisis trauma and reconcile affected communities.

– Principle 4. Prioritizing culture early in the planning process, starting with needs assessments and the implementation of emergency interventions that reflect community priorities.

– Principle 5. Engaging communities and local governments in every step of the recovery process.

– Principle 6. Using finance models that balance imme- diate/short-term needs with the medium/long-term development timeframe of reconstruction plans.

– Principle 7. Ensuring effective management of the reconstruction process by striking a balance between people’s needs and the recovery of a city’s historic character.

Lijiang old town, Yunnan, People’s Republic of China. © Chensiyuan. From CURE position paper

The four phases of operation

According to the position paper,  four phases characterize the operation of reconstructing cities:

1. Damage and Needs Assessment and Scoping. This phase includes the assessment of damages and impacts to tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the cultural and creative industries, housing stock and land resources, services and infrastructure, and the tourism sector, as well as the resulting economic losses to the affected population from the interruption of services and use of assets. Building on the damage and needs assessments, a scoping process is conducted, which includes data collection, asset mapping, stakeholder mapping and the development of a vision for city reconstruction and recovery.

2. Policy and Strategy. This phase outlines the policies, strategies and planning process that translate the damage and needs assessments and vision into plans and planning regulations, through participatory approaches where stakeholders and communities are fully engaged.

3. Financing: This phase includes the identification of modalities to finance the reconstruction and recovery process combining public and private financing, as well as other funding sources, the management of land resources (one of the most critical assets cities possess), and development of financing tools and incentives.

4. Implementation. This phase, which is critical to the success and sustainability of post-crisis reconstruction and recovery efforts, includes setting up effective institutional and governance structures, a risk management strategy, and a communication and engagement strategy.

The Authors state that, as the cities emerge from crises, find themselves faced with the need to reconcile communities, to promote economic development, and to manage complex social, spatial, and economic transformations. Thus, restoring social cohesion and reconciliation in conflict areas and rebuilding community resilience after a shock are significant challenges.

Since culture is a major source of resilience  the cultural industries can contribute to economic growth, to promote social inclusion, and to bolster a city’s image. So, cultural heritage provides cities with a distinctive character and a factor that enhances their attractiveness and competitiveness while contributing to their economic recovery. Culture is therefore critical for post-crisis reconstruction and recovery processes.

The CURE Framework adopts a culture-based approach to ensure that community needs, values, and priorities are central to recovery and reconstruction processes while safeguarding intangible heritage, fostering social inclusion, promoting creativity and innovation, and contributing to dialogue and peacebuilding initiatives.

Based on the consideration that integrating culture into sustainable urban development policies  will contribute to making these cities more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, three main messages emerge from the Position Paper:

1. Culture plays a key role in post-crisis reconstruction and recovery processes

2. Culture should be acknowledged as the foundation that integrates people-centered and place-based policies

3. To produce an effective city reconstruction and recovery program requires mainstreaming culture across the damage and needs assessment, scoping, planning, financing, and implementation stages


Europe is ready for climate impact. The EU Commission evaluates its strategy, but what about Cultural Heritage protection?

Europe is ready for climate impacts: Commission evaluates its strategy. From:

On November 12th, 2018, the European Commission has posted on its website some information about  a report (Europe is ready for climate impacts: Commission evaluates its strategy) on lessons learned and reflections on improvements for future action with regard to the impacts of climate change on economic sectors of EU regions.

Losses in the EU countries due to climate change. From: Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change

Cultural legacy all over the world can be considered a beacon that draws millions of people every year to  archaeological sites, churches, castles, monuments, museums, etc.  So, the protection and conservation of Cultural Heritage shoul be a priority for any policy makers, since Cultural Heritage is a known value with effects in other economic sectors.

Cultural Heritage is a wealth creator that boosts economic impact and tourism-related business opportunities, on which many cities and communities depend.

On the other hand, heritage assets are dramatically exposed to climate change and natural hazards, which threaten their integrity and may compromise their value. The loss or deterioration of these unique assets would negatively affect local and national communities, due to their cultural importance as a source of information on the past and a symbol of identity, as well as for their socio-economic value.

While the problem of protecting and preserving Cultural Heritage is considered one of the key issues in modern societies, the webpage of the Commission does not address explicitly the issue of its protection against the damages due to of climate change. The  documents downloadble from the webpage do not contain specific references to the issue as well.

Hopefully, in the report that has been sent to the European Parliament and to the Council of the EU, there’s already some reference to the protection strategy of such a pivotal aspect of the European Union.

The EU funded in the recent years researches on the specific topic. In 2019  will end two EU projects which deal with the very same problem, financed in 2015 under the Horizon 2020 program:

  • HERACLES:  Heritage resilience against Climate events on site
  • STORM:  Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management

In the following years, few projects concerning the protection of Cultural Heritage against climate change risks seem to have been funded. A 2017 call has been issued on “Resilience and sustainable reconstruction of historic areas to cope with climate change and hazard events”.

The hope is that also the last calls of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Commission will keep high the interest in the preservation of Cultural Heritage against natural and man made risks. Limiting damages in the long term to such an important and vulnerable part of the local and communities communities should be a common goal of the next policies in the specific sector of Cultural Heritage protection.

An ongoing effort in identifying innovative solutions to enhance capabilities in improving existing processes related to prevention, intervention and planning is necessary .

First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis – a double ICCROM publication


On October 2018 ICCROM (the intergovernamental organization on International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) has published a couple of documents about “First Aid to Cultural Heritage in times of crisis”:  a 176 pages pdf handbook and a 104 pages pdf toolkit.

Both the publications, authored by ICCROM’s Aparna Tandon and created in the framework of the ICCROM – Prince Claus Fund – Smithsonian Institution collaboration, are aimed at developing capacity in emergency preparedness and response for cultural heritage, can be downloaded from the ICCROM website

The handbook is focused on simple instructions and  case studies which explain what has to be done to and how to do it.

According to the Authors of the forewords, the toolkit is “intended to codify the First Aid processes and further stimulate research, activity and awareness”.

The ICCROM website specifies that  the emergency strategy of cultural heritage First Aid is based on three  phases  – (1) situation analysis; (2) post event, on-site damage and risk assessment; (3) security and stabilisation, which collectively lead to early recovery. Accordingly, the handbook shows possible  workflows and procedures, which are explained  with a simple and easy language with the help of  a very clear graphics.

The two documents are part of the ICCROM effort to spread knowledge about the protection of Cultural Heritage in any part of the world,  focused mostly on training of local resources.

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections: an ICCROM-UNESCO handbook



Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Handbook cover.

Protecting Cultural Heritage is  mainly aimed at avoiding that any kind of  hazard could pose an excessive  risk to the objects that must be preserved. There are conditions, nonetheless, that oblige to evacuate the artefacts, since the preventive measures cannot be anymore effective.  So, in specific situations, museums and their staff may  go through challenging times due both to natural disasters and climate change.

In the case of museums, when they  are threatened for their role in protecting and valorizing precious witnesses of the past and human creativity, their intrinsic value for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding  must be protected and supported.

UNESCO and ICCROM have published in English and in Arabic an handbook about the protection of Cultural Heritage objects during conflicts. Such activity  is challenging and can be life threatening.

The handbook provides step-by-step guidance for evacuating cultural collections under extreme conditions. It is aimed at assisting people and  institutions,which try to prevent the destruction and looting of cultural objects during a crisis situation. It can be used also to train others and to improve emergency preparedness at cultural sites. According the document, the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF), a Cairo based non-governmental organisation, has performed the field-testing of the workflow.

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Document, Pack and move infographic.

The handbook deals the evacuation of cultural heritage objects, how to do it, which workflow adopt, how to assess the threat and other important aspects of  preparedness and management of emergency evacuations. Obviously, the handbook cannot give instructions on the prioritisation in removing objects, since such activity is strongly related to a complex  assessment depending of many different considerations but it has the merit of drawing attention to this passage of emergency procedures and providing some basic information.

The document can be downloaded from the ICCROM website or here:

ICCROM-UNESCO Emergency Evacuation of Cultural Heritage of Handbook

Vegetation Fire and Cultural Heritage buildings: the Paul Getty Museum case study

Flames endangers the I 405 by the Getty Center on Dec. 5th (Credits: Melissa Castro)

On December 5th, 2017, a large brush fire in California has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings. According the media no injuries or structural damage have been reported, although the museum has been threatened and closed to the public on Wednesday 5th.

An important aspect of the fire that obliged Authorities to close the freeway through the Sepulveda Pass, is related to fire safety of art collections and museums in general in case of vegetation or forest fire. The Getty Center has been closed for one day because of wildfires burning across the 405 Freeway. According media  “officials say the flames pose no immediate danger to the museum’s art”.

At 07:11 – 6 dic 2017 the Center has released the following tweet: The Getty Center is closed to the public today. The fire is northeast of the Getty Center and east of the San Diego Freeway. Air filtration systems are protecting the galleries from smoke. We continue to monitor the situation and will issue updates as we have them.

The Getty’s vice president of communications,  has explained that  “the safest place for the art is right here at the Getty”.

The Getty Center and the vegetation around the compound (Credits: Google Maps)

The key points fo the specific fire safety strategy adopted by the museum against vegetation fire can be summarised as follows:

  • the thickness of the walls and doors, designed to compartmentalize any flames;
  • smoke detection and sprinklers;
  • sophisticated air filtration system and pressurization systems (with the possibility of reverse flow);
  • water reservoir to supply suppression systems;
  •  on-site helipad to fill helicopters with water;
  •  large-diameter loop to feed hydrants of the property;
  • the zone around the building is kept green with fire-resistant plants;
  • the area surrounding the campus is  kept clear of grasses.;
  • a canopy of oak trees has been planted in order to suppress the growth of vegetation that could feed a vegetation fire.

Smoke, hot air and toxic gases produced by a forest or vegetation fire con be  led by winds inside containing vulnerable historic or cultural artefacts and  damage them inside a building, the same way smoke and combustion products can do it when produced by an internal fire. Thus, the fire has highlighted the frequently forgotten need of assessing also the risk of external fire in assessing museum and Cultural Heritage safety.

The event shows how safety of museums in specific cases needs the assessment of people evacuation, of  internal fire spread and vegetation fire propagation.




Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School

Istituto Superiore Antincendi (National Fire Academy of the Italian Firefighters)

Protecting Cultural Heritage form disasters needs different actions, one of the more important of which is to make aware stakeholders about what to do, during emergencies, to limit damages. This consideration has been made by the the EU research project STORM, financed under the Horizon 2020 program, that, from 11th to 13th September 2017  has organized in Rome (Italy) its first course on Management in Emergency of Cultural Heritage. The course “STORM Summer School 2017” has been based on the main topic of the project: how to protect (from preparedness to recovery) cultural heritage against damages due to climate change. So, together with the lessons and the field demonstrations concerning first aid to heritage and historical building, climate change and its effects on the environment have been briefly described.

The Course, a preparatory activity to organise the 2018 STORM Summer School, has been held in Rome, in the National Fire Academy (Istituto Superiore Antincendi) with a 2 and an half days program and final examination. The aim of the course, is giving to managers and to anyone is committed in managing Cultural Heritage buildings some basic information on the main risks due to climate change that can pose a threat to Cultural Heritage buildings and artefacts. The program is based on the underlying consideration that the  training and cultural basis in Europe of people charged of managing such assets is extremely different in the member states.

The speakers and the topics of the course have been:

  • Dr. Ivonne Anders, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change observed and predicted in Europe 
  • Dr. Alcides Fuschini Bizarro, Município de Grândola (PT), Water and environment agents  damages: protecting procedures  in emergency 
  • Prof. Joerg Birkmann, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change and new threats to cultural heritage
  • Dr. Eng. Silvia Boi, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica (IT),  The STORM project and protection of cultural heritage: state of the art and goals
  • Dr. Francesca Boldrighini, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il Museo Nazionale Romano e l’Area Archeologica di Roma (IT), Gathering and sharing data in emergency between rescue services and cultural heritage protection bodies
  • Dr. Maria Concetta Capua, Nova Conservacao (PT), STORM suggested forms and their use on field
  • Prof. Patrikakis Charalampos, Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus (GR), Description of sensors used in STORM
  • Dr. Eng. Armando de Rosa, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Quick assessment of damaged structures
  • Dr. Paolo Dolci, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Steading of a earthquake-damaged masonry arch
  • Dr. Arch. Maria Teresa Jaquinta (ICCROM), Definition, classification and protection of cultural heritage rules
  • Dr. Eng. Andrea Marino, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Earthquake damages: shoring procedures in emergency scenarios
  • Dr. Eng. Stefano Marsella, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Protection of cultural buildings and sites from vegetation fires
  • Dr. Eng. Marcello Marzoli, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Gathering and sharing data in emergency between rescue services and cultural heritage protection bodies
  • Dr. Eng. Luca Nassi, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Protection of cultural heritage and artifacts from structural fires
  • Dr. Filipa Mascarenhas Neto, Direção-Geral do Património Cultural (PT)
  • Mr. Fabio Perossini, KPeople (UK), Roles and Responsibility in cultural heritage resilience, How to estimate costs to be faced. Voluntarism involvement. A strategy for the future
  • Dr. Mohammed Ravankhah, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change observed and predicted in Europe
  • Dr. Vanni Resta, KPeople (UK),
  • Dr. Maria Joao Reves, Nova Conservacao (PT),  Integration of short and long term applications to enable improved decision making and faster reaction
  • Prof. Ulderico Santamaria, Università della Tuscia (IT), Protection measures on cultural heritage against environmental agents
  • Prof. Eren Uckan, Bogazici University and Kandilli Observatory (TR), Principles to face earthquake risks for cultural heritage
Summer School Field demonstration of salvage of flooded books

Five “Field Exercise” have been kept:

  • Before the disaster: Data collection –  How to collect data about the Cultural Heritage in the preparedness phase;
  • First Aid to books in case of flood – Instructions to first responders to save books and papers involved in floods;
  • Steading of a earthquake-damaged masonry arch – Demonstration about the shoring of a masonry structure in the aftermath of the event (earthquake) applying operating procedure of the Italian National Firefighter Corps;
  • First aid to damaged fresco – Procedures to save frescoes damaged applying the  technique of detaching from the walls;
  • Quick assessment of damaged structures – Demonstration of the procedures currently developed by the Italian National Firefighters (CNVVF) within the STORM project in the Terme di Diocleziano pilot site aimed at helping the quick assessment of the structural damage of a building using Geo-Radar and Laser Scanner equipment.
STORM 2017 Summer School Program

Two demonstrations have been dealing with scenarios concerning the assessment and the limitation of damages to Cultural Heritage after earthquakes or floods. The Italian Firefighters (CNVVF) showed, in particular, the techniques used in the immediate aftermath of an earthquakes to shore damaged historical buildings have been demonstrated with the construction, in few hours, of a shoring wooden structure aimed ad reinforcing a damaged masonry arch.

In the second scenario the quick assessment of a damaged building (even in this case, damage is not related necessarily to an earthquake) has been carried out using laser scanner and geo-radar technologies. This particular activity is an innovation action due to the European project and is currently developed in the pilot site of the Terme di Diocleziano compound, in Rome. The concept of the action is verify the feasibility of a procedure based on the comparison between a scanning of a damaged structure carried out by the firefighters after the damaged with a 3D image previously acquired by the owner/manager of the structure and available to firefighters even in emergency. Such possibility would allow to assess with extreme precision the displacement of the structure and decide with more confidence what kind of measures have to be taken. Other demonstrations have dealt with limitation of damages activities to frescoes and with salvage of flooded books.

The 2017 edition of the Summer School aimed at giving the basic information about the first year results of the STORM project. The second edition of the course will be organized during 2018. The course has been an experimental edition, limited to partners of the project and invited stakeholders. The purpose of the course has been the verification of the user requirements, in order to organize the 2018 edition within a framework closer to the stakeholders.

Summer school program

Flyer Summer School


The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage

Cover of the ABC Method document. (Credits: ICCROM website)

Risks to cultural heritage vary from catastrophic events (such as earthquakes,  floods,  etc) to gradual processes (such as chemical, physical, or biological degradation). The result is loss of value to the heritage. Sometimes, the risk does not involve any type of material damage to the heritage asset, but rather the loss of information about it, or the inability to access heritage items. So, heritage managers need to understand these risks well so as to make good decisions about protection of the heritage (for future generations) while also providing access for the current generation. ICCROM (Intergovernamental Organisation devoted to protect Cultural Heritage)  and the Canadian Conservation Institute have published the “The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural  heritage”.

The handbookl is based on the five steps pf the management cycle (Establish the context,  identify risks, analyze risks, evaluate risks, treat risks)  and, for each step, three or more tasks are identified, whose complete list

1. Establish the context

  • Task 1: Consult with decision makers. Define the scope, goals and criteria.
  • Task 2: Collect and understand the relevant information.
  • Task 3: Build the value pie.

2. Identify risks

  • Task 1: Assemble the appropriate tools and strategies.
  • Task 2: Survey the heritage asset and make a photographic record.
  • Task 3: Identify specific risks, name them, and write their summary sentences.

3. Analyze risks

  • Task 1: Quantify each specific risk.
  • Task 2: Split or combine specific risks, as needed.
  • Task 3: Review and refine the analyses.

4. Evaluate risks

  • Task 1: Compare risks to each other, to criteria, to expectations.
  • Task 2: Evaluate the sensitivity of prioritization to changes in the value pie.
  • Task 3: Evaluate uncertainty, constraints, opportunities.

5. Treat risks

  • Task 1: Identify risk treatment options.
  • Task 2: Quantify risk reduction options.
  • Task 3: Evaluate risk reduction options.
  • Task 4: Plan and implement selected options.

The document is an important study aimed at helping cultural heritage managers and risk assessment professionals in starting the process that limits damages to buildings and artefacts. The document is freely downloadable from the ICCROM website or from the Canadian Conservation Institute website.

LiDAR and Cultural Heritage in emergency situations: the H2020 STORM project first outcomes

The possibility of acquiring images and data of damaged buildings during the first phases of the emergencies is crucial to put them in safe conditions. (Image credits: CNVVF National Fire and Rescue Services  – Italy)

The project STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) has been funded by the Horizon 2020 EU Program and aims at defining a platform that managers of cultural heritage sites can use in improving preparedness, managing emergencies and planning restoration of damaged buildings.

The project specifically considers risks that the cultural sites have to face from either long-term degradation (whose action is far slower than the typical applications of feedback controls), or extreme traumatic events (whose action is much faster). Their common nature is the climate change. So, the specific scope of the project is creating a technological platform that allows a systematic comparison between a real (measured) state and a desired theoretical state.

Assumptions are kept to the minimum possible level and the difference (the measured error signal), is the main input for whatever algorithm may be used to compute the action (input) that needs to be applied to the mitigation process to achieve the desired objective. So, in other words, reliable and up-to-date measures of the key risk variables are the base line for the STORM predictive model but also for the identification of better intervention actions in terms of restoration and conservation of original materials that will be the starting point for a long term mitigation strategies. As a consequence, needs take into account the use of a large number of sensors, in order to acquire the most useful data. For example, in the case of a progressive relative displacement of a structural beam of an ancient monument, over time comparison of periodical LIDAR based detection of the artefact overall 3D model can be used to detect the small differences in the beam’s position over time.

UAVs have been extensively used by the Italian National Fire Service during the 2016 Central Italy Earthquake to survey damages suffered by Cultural Heritage Buildings. (Image credits: CNVVF National Fire and Rescue Services  – Italy)

What is a LiDAR?

According Wikipedia, Lidar (also called LIDAR, LiDAR, and LADAR) is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a laser light. The name lidar, sometimes considered an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging (sometimes Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging), was originally a portmanteau of light and radar. Lidar is popularly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, atmospheric physics, laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), and laser altimetry. Lidar sometimes is called laser scanning and 3D scanning, with terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.

General schema of LiDAR. (Image credits: Wikipedia)

How Cultural Heritage can benefit of LiDAR (according STORM Project)

Based on such information a team of experts (structural engineers, archaeologists, geologists, restorers) will cooperate, in order to understand the causes and find the most adequate response. In this example, the action cannot be predetermined (nor taken automatically of course), but instead requires a careful and accurate cooperative design and planning of the action in order for it to be as effective and as unobtrusive as possible.
When a disaster occurs, general guidelines related to a wide range of events (e.g. flood, earthquake), existing for the specific site, must be dynamically adapted in near real time by ad-hoc team of experts in order to identify the most urgent recovery actions for the specific emergency. So, LIDAR sensors used for structural evaluation and track-changes of the artefact in terms of erosion monitoring as also for geomorphological assessment and mapping of the protected area can offer a valuable support to managers. Moreover, photogrammetric reconstruction by means of historical and contemporary aerial photography to track-changes can support when it comes to assessing the damages through time and forecast potential future threats

LIDAR equipment have been used until now mostly on movable supports, that are steadily placed on the ground to let an accurate record of data. More recently, RPAS devices have been tested as platform to be equipped with regular camera (high resolution RGB still pictures) for monitoring and mapping, Near Infrared camera and thermal and multispectral sensors or the localization and monitoring of buried structures, light-weight LiDAR for higher resolution 3D scanning. Such possibility has demonstrate its extreme importance during emergency situations: in fact, accessing parts of buildings in some cases can be difficult or can pose a severe risk to rescuers. During the rescue operations of the Central Italy earthquake of August 2016, RPAS mounted LIDAR have been used in many scenarios by the Italian National Fire Service and a complete report of such use hasn’t been published yet.

In which scenarios can LIDAR sensors prove to give data not replaceable by other sensors or any operational procedures? One of the first case is any natural or man-made threat that can damage the structures of heritage buildings. Suppose that, after an earthquake, in an ancient masonry buildings fixtures are identified. Even if, in general, it is possible to track the evolution of a fixture in a building, in the larger buildings it is actually impossible to be certain that a damage has been produced by a specific event.

The Italian pilot site of STORM will be tested in the Diocletian Baths complex, in Rome,  a small portion of which is showed in the image. (Image credits: Wikipedia)

It could have been caused previously for any reason (i.e. failure of foundation). The answer that the Italian STORM pilot site of museum of Terme di Diocleziano (Diocletian Baths – Rome) is currently testing is based on a LIDAR scanner of the buildings.

The hypothetical scenario sees a rescue call to firefighters that arrive with their own LIDAR, scan the portion of the building damaged and compare their results with the data previously acquired by the museum managers. As it’s known LiDAR needs time and, mostly, large quantity of data storage, but a small portion of a building is much more manageable. So, even with a high definition setting, the procedure could offer a new possibility to improve the reliability of the assessment that rescuers have to do during  operations.

Dr. Ing. Stefano Marsella (CNVVF) for STORM Project

Large scale crisis and data exchange: the CAP protocol in L’Aquila earthquake

On April, 6th 2009 the Italian city of L’Aquila and the surrounding area have been striken by a 6,3 Mw earthquake, causing 309 victims, more than 1.600 injured and 10 billion euro of damages.

A door is one of the few remains of an old house in the historical center of Amatrice (Italy), destroyed by the earthquake of Aug. 24th, 2016. (Credits:






The Italian National Fire Corps responded swiftly, bringing in place some 1.000 professional rescuers within the first 24 hours, raised to more than 2.300 within the third day, together with some 1.100 vehicles and the needed resources and logistics. Of course the first and foremost target was to save lives, but soon after this task had been completed it was clear the urgency to deploy provisional measures for buildings to restore minimal safety conditions and avoid further damages.

L’Aquila was not a common town: besides the 73,000 civil buildings (half of which damaged), there were more than 600 registered monuments to save (172 of which damaged). More than 100 expert engineers of the Italian National Fire Corps have been working daily to assess civil buildings damages, but monuments required a more complex approach: firemen and their engineers had to work in team with cultural heritage experts provided by several Italian universities under the coordination of the Cultural Heritage Ministry. In fact, the design of provisional measures of each monument required several high-level expertises, as well as the practical approach of firemen, to adapt the design to an often compromised scenario. Such activity has been developed on a long term basis (it lasted more than an year). As a result, the involved professionals were periodically rotated: while firemen teams rotated with a week-long shift, the university teams could not always stay in place. A tool to work remotely was needed. Luckily, at that time the Italian National Fire Corps was testing the first release of the interoperability functionalities for the 100 provincial Control Centres.

CAP standard (from:

Even if does not exist a standard definition of DSS, it is commonly intended as a computer-based information system that supports business or organizational decision-making activities. When applied to daily or large scale emergencies, such definition implies the capacity of a DSS of analyzing and processing data generated or communicated by multiple sources. In more practical terms, a DSS developed to help a civil protection or a fire service Authority should be fed by data  and information provided not only by the citizens to emergency numbers, but also from any other organization involved in the rescue process as well as by available sensors networks, from simulation tools using such data and from the wealth of information provided by GIS data services. The available technologies are adequate enough for developers to deliver even complex systems, however such systems are still rarely adopted due to a main obstacle: the data which could be timely fed to such systems are insufficient in quantity and quality and most often not up-to-date, mostly for both political and technical reasons. Experiences gathered in the course of recent emergencies involving either large areas or very high numbers of people have shown that, even in recent years, the coordination of rescue activities rarely, if not never, was able to take advantage from ICT tools. The main obstacles to data exchange are political attitudes and lack of interoperability services. Most often they are cross-related: on one hand, the extreme care with which emergency data is rightly treated brings most emergency managers at avoiding any exchange of data (e.g., not trusting readily available services able to erase part of the information), on the other hand, due to such attitude there is a lack of properly designed and developed interoperability services aimed at exchanging emergency data. As a consequence, whenever an uncommon scenario demands such data exchange, the resulting political pressure brings to either exchange data anyway, through improper (and potentially risky) means, or to avoid such data exchange (and miss the related advantages). In most contexts, this issue can pose severe problems, since even if the political pressure is aimed at improving coordination through automatic data exchange, the existing systems cannot be updated in time in order to ensure such functionalities. The sole possibility to overcome such situation is to reach an agreement between the different authorities, aimed at converting and exchanging data in a common protocol, which can be read by non homogeneous systems. Such solution has been tested in Italy in L’Aquila earthquake (2009), when many common cultural heritage buildings have been damaged. The need of coordinating in different teams of Italian firefighters working on the buildings a large territorial area of under the direction of the Cultural Heritage Administration has been solved using a system of data exchange based on  the international standard CAP (common alerting protocol). The web-based system has allowed to speed up a process that needed several approval steps that would have implied continuous meetings.

The NFPA 909 – 2017 Edition on “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties: Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” has been published

The 909 Standard “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” – 2017 Edition has been published by National Fire Protection Association.

The standard describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (museums, libraries, and places of worship etc.), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss. The updates for the 2017 edition include:

  • expanded provisions for outdoor collections and archaeological sites and their protection against wildfire;
  • further clarification of sprinkler system corrosion protection criteria;
  • mandated integrated system testing per NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing;
  •  the addition of numerous events to Annex B, Fire Experience in Cultural Properties.

According to the 909 code, libraries, museums, and places of worship housed in historic structures have also to comply with the requirements of NFPA 914 (Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures).

The standard includes provisions for fire prevention, emergency operations, fire safety management, security, emergency preparedness and inspection, testing, and maintenance of protection systems.

As in the previous editions, criteria are provided for new construction, addition, alteration, renovation, and modification projects, along with specific rules addressing places of worship and museums, libraries, and their collections.

STORM: an Horizon 2020 research project on heritage and environmental changes


STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) is a EU research and development project funded in the early 2016 by the EU under the Horizon 2020 program (Call: DRS-11-2015: Disaster Resilience & Climate Change, Topic 3: Mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on Cultural Heritage sites, structures and artefacts).

STORM will study the impact of climate changes on cultural heritage and the mitigation strategies of their effects on the buildings and artefacts.

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites.An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included.

Starting from previous research experiences and tangible outcomes, STORM proposes a set of novel predictive models and improved non-invasive and non-destructive methods of survey and diagnosis, for effective prediction of environmental changes and for revealing threats and conditions that could damage cultural heritage sites. Moreover, STORM will determine how different vulnerable materials, structures and buildings are affected by different extreme weather events together with risks associated to climatic conditions or natural hazards, offering improved, effective adaptation and mitigation strategies, systems and technologies. An integrated system featuring novel sensors (intra fluorescent and wireless acoustic sensors), legacy systems, state of the art platforms (including LiDAR and UAVs), as well as crowdsourcing techniques will be implemented, offering applications and services over an open cloud infrastructure. An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included. The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites (from the STORM project website).

One of the main results of the first year of the project has been the course on preparedness and first aid to Cultural Heritage “STORM 2017  Summer School“, held in Rome on 11 to 13 September 2017. The course has been conceived as a test of the 2018 edition.

Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School