A satellite network can play a significant role in the efficient monitoring of health situations and epidemics in the event of natural disasters like earthquake.
This became evident during a two-day training exercise conducted in the frame of the European Space Agency's (ESA) SAFE project (satellite for health early warning and for epidemiology) in Crete, the largest of Geek islands.
The programme was aimed at understanding users' needs and developing tools adapted to such needs.
During the training session, a satellite helped establish an immediate voice-and-video link between the rescue teams and specialised doctors from its altitude of 36 000 kilometres.
A centre for control and coordination was established in downtown Heraklion, which allowed a quick assessment of the means needed to set up and facilitate the process of intervention.
On the second day after the earthquake and its emergency management by local authorities, a scenario involving an epidemiological threat was staged. Analysis of victims sheltered in a camp quickly made it obvious that there was a threat of gastroenteritis.
When specialised doctors were linked to the rescue teams via satellite and were exhibited the first symptoms, they helped them understand the nature of the epidemic and treat the patients.
The satellite link also enabled specialists to aid rescue workers in determining the origin of the epidemic, and take the necessary measures to stop the problem from spreading.
The demonstration showed that space could contribute to faster and more efficient rescue and assistance in the field, taking advantage of the expertise of specialists from distant locations and offering the possibility of raising alerts in the event of epidemiological risks.
Crete was chosen for the project because is prone to be affected by earthquakes.