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International satellites supporting disaster management

The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" is an international effort to put space technology at the service of rescue and emergency responders in the event of major disasters. With 17 Charter members and 61 contributing satellites from around the world, the Charter allows for resources and expertise to be organized for a quick response to catastrophic events. Member space agencies cooperate on a voluntary basis, with no exchange of funds, and each agency has devoted resources to support the Charter. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no cost to the user, the Charter mobilizes international partners, helping alleviate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

 Did you know?

  • Initiated in by the European Space Agency (ESA) and France's space agency, the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the Charter was signed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in , making Canada a founding member.
  • The Charter came into effect on . From that date to , there were 678 activations in 126 countries, including 14 activations in Canada.
The International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”: A worldwide collaboration to save lives

Text version - The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters": A worldwide collaboration for disaster relief

This visual provides an overview of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters." (Credit: CSA)

When the Charter is activated, its members make satellite images of devastated regions available to support relief efforts. RADARSAT-2 imagery, and soon that of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), regularly provides support to rescue teams on the ground. Armed quickly with reliable and accurate information, response teams are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.

In spring , snowmelt and rain caused flooding in parts of the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. According to Statistics Canada, about 17,500 homes were either hit by flooding or considered to be at risk. Approximately 460 km of roadways were washed out and over 600 square km of land were flooded, including 153 square km of agricultural land. In Quebec, around 9,500 people were evacuated from their homes, while one person died in a flood-related road accident. Over 2,000 soldiers were deployed to the affected areas to help fill and distribute sandbags and assist residents.

Public Safety Canada, the Authorized User of the Charter for Canada, activated the Charter on . Two hundred and twenty-seven satellite products were provided by eight agencies. Natural Resources Canada produced 13 maps to support relief efforts.

Learn why satellites and satellite-based systems are indispensable tools to keep us safe.

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