Getting ready for a volcanic eruption on a Scottish island

Release date May. 24, 2023, 04:23 pm EDT
Oxford, United Kingdom
Getting ready for a volcanic eruption on a Scottish island
Cloud of volcanic ash? Just cloudy weather over the Isle of Cumbrae, west of Glasgow, in Scotland. Photo: MapAction.

Last weekend (May 19th-21st) more than 60 humanitarian mapping volunteers from charity MapAction brought an element of fire to the west coast of Scotland with a simulated response to a hypothetical volcanic eruption.

The Isle of Cumbrae is more used to hosting marine biologists than humanitarian mappers preparing for the next volcanic eruption. The last volcano to erupt nearby was on the neighbouring Isle of Arran more than 10,000 years ago.

MapAction's scenario brought it out of extinction. Lava and rock flow towards settlements below. Panic begins to sow. Who needs to be evacuated and how? Where should urgent aid go first? Where should shelters be established?

MapAction's volunteers, who work for leading private, public and nonprofit entities, reunite each year to tackle these challenges - in between real deployments on frontlines of natural disasters, alongside the UN, regional and national disaster management agencies.

The volunteers only receive the scenario details on the day. They're forced to adapt fast to the requests thrown at them by various stakeholders: the governor of the affected region, members of the regional disaster agency, partner iNGOs and local media. Unforeseen updates replicate fluid real-life conditions. Guests included a representative from the British Red Cross, as well as Renée Babb, GIS Specialist at the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), a longtime partner of MapAction.

This year's exercise envisaged a volcanic eruption on the fictional Isle of Ranas. MapAction has been called-in by the regional disaster relief agency and the local government urgently needs to get a clearer overview.

Each map MapAction produces informs a key decision for stakeholders and decision-makers in humanitarian work. Who gets shelter? What are the forecasted conditions? Getting it wrong could have severe consequences for the most vulnerable affected people.

MapAction humanitarian teams have been involved in more than 140 emergency responses worldwide since 2004 . This annual exercise is designed to strengthen disaster preparedness for the UK charity to be as ready as possible for the next disaster. New volunteers can gain feedback from more experienced colleagues while learning and sharing best practices. This event was funded by USAID's Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs, a long term supporter of MapAction's work. As the climate emergency means more and more disasters, being ready to mitigate their consequences has never been more important.

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