Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies

Disruptive events such as earthquakes, floods, landslides and man-made accidents have the potential to contaminate water supplies with dangerous waterborne pathogens. If left untreated or poorly managed, these pathogens can spread rapidly through urban water systems, posing significant health risks. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), securing water systems and improving detection and response mechanisms are critical to protecting human health in the face of increasingly frequent disruptions (IPCC, 2023). In emergencies, first responders, law enforcement and emergency medical services are often the first on the scene. Their ability to operate safely and effectively in such challenging situations is critical. However, the detection, identification and containment of waterborne pathogens requires specialised technologies and skills integrated into comprehensive emergency response plans.

To address these challenges, the Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies (PathoCERT) project, which concluded in February 2024, focused on improving the ability of first responders to rapidly detect and manage waterborne pathogens. PathoCERT developed and deployed 12 innovative technologies to support first responders throughout the emergency response chain. Through the development and integration of diverse technological solutions, the initiative aims to provide first responders with the necessary capabilities to detect, assess and mitigate the risks associated with such crises.


At the heart of these innovations is a suite of mobile and satellite-based sensing technologies that enable rapid identification of pathogens and assessment of the extent of contamination. These tools provide emergency responders with real-time data critical for informed decision-making and rapid deployment of response measures. These capabilities will be complemented by advanced incident management systems designed to streamline communication and coordination between response teams, ensuring a rapid and effective response. In addition, predictive analytics are used to anticipate threat risks, event evolution and potential impact, enabling proactive response planning and resource allocation. Centralised platforms integrate data from multiple sources, including geographic information systems and social media analytics, to provide responders with a comprehensive understanding of the crisis landscape.  Aerial vehicles operating without crew facilitate data collection from remote and inaccessible areas, increasing the scope and accuracy of response efforts.

The CSCP led the multi-stakeholder engagement efforts, guiding and implementing the co-creation processes essential for the development of PathoCERT technologies. We facilitated collaboration and coordination among diverse stakeholders, including universities, research organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), first responders and water utilities, through the establishment of six Communities of Practice (CoPs) in Granada (Spain), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Limassol (Cyprus), Thessaloniki (Greece), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Seoul (South Korea).

Together, this technology development and the collaborative approach represent a paradigm shift in emergency response, equipping responders with the tools and insights they need to effectively manage the complexities of waterborne pathogen contamination incidents, while by fostering collaboration and innovation. With this, the PathoCERT project has set a new standard for resilience and preparedness of first responders, key stakeholders, and local communities in the face of waterborne threats.

To learn more about the PathoCERT project, its multi-stakeholder engagement approach, best practices and lessons learned from the CoPs, and strategies for strengthening community resilience, please watch our explainer video.

PathoCERT Video


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The PathoCERT project was funded under the European Union’s research program Horizon 2020 and was carried out from 2020 to 2024 by a consortium of  23 partners from Europe and South Korea.