This project deals with ad hoc networks in disaster scenarios. The project is part of the project "RESIlienz durch Helfernetzwerke zur BEwältigung von KriSen und Katastrophen" (Resilience by Spontaneous Volunteers Networks for Coping with Emergencies and Disaster), funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).


Natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, or even large storms can challenge the capacities of rescue forces and relief agencies. While the core group of helpers employed by the authorities as well as registered volunteers of the relief agencies are well organized, the large and important group of spontaneous volunteers are not pre-organized. In the RESIBES project we aim at winning people to register as spontaneous volunteers: no enlisting in any society or agency is necessary, but people rather state via a website that they might be willing to help in an emergency. Additionally, they can state how they are qualified or what kind of resources they could bring in (e.g. power supply, tools, place for sleeping for evacuated people, etc).


A smart phone app will be developed that allows relief agencies to communicate with the registered helpers. In absence of disasters methods of communication are necessary as to enable the agencies to keep people interested and motivated in the app. This will lead to the people keeping information up-to-date and the app installed on their phones.

In an emergency situation, relief agencies can use the collected information to contact the people that are close to the emergency and that are best suited to help via the app. The choice whether to help or not is left to the volunteer, allowing to accept or decline any help request. The benefit for the agencies in this setting is that they a) have an overview of the potential of spontaneous volunteers and resources and can b) easily communicate with them.

Due to the nature of catastrophes, the communication infrastructure necessary for this can be damaged or overloaded. To create an alternative to the mobile telephony infrastructure, our research groups explores methods that allow creation of ad hoc networks using the smart phones of registered helpers. The challenge here is on the one hand the restricted capabilities of the devices and on the other hand the behavior of the people carrying them: the ad hoc network can be disrupted if the distance between devices is too large, so the network can consist of multiple groups that are only interconnected from time to time. This renders communication difficult, since at no time it is guaranteed that a direct connection between a pair of people willing to communicate exists.

We are aiming at building a resilient network, i.e. even with a high mobility of participants, chances of devices dying due to empty batteries, etc., the network still works as a communication layer. Also, we explore methods which allow restoring or improving connectivity by placing devices on strategically relevant places.


  • Friedhelm Meyer auf der Heide
  • Matthias Fischer
  • Johannes Schaefer

Project Partners

  • German Red Cross Frankfurt/Main
  • Atos IT Solutions and Services GmbH
  • mainis IT-Service GmbH
  • University of Freiburg
  • Paderborn University

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