Floods are among the most disruptive natural events threatening our Society. Just in Europe and in the last decade, floods have killed more than 1000 people and caused damages exceeding 4.5 billion Euros. Due to the foreseen increase in extreme weather events and to the rapid socio-economic developments in vulnerable locations, the water related hazards, such as dike failures and debris flows, are growing rapidly. As testified in the "7th Environment Action Programme", the European Commission is well aware of these risks and of the need to face them efficiently with an integrated approach. Strategies to cope these threats range from reinforcing civil structures, such as dikes and drainage channels, to carefully planning land use, to implementing effective monitoring tools and early warning systems. In this perspective, project DOMINO (Dike and Debris Flow Monitoring by Novel Optical Fiber Sensors) aims to develop novel optical fiber sensors for the monitoring of dikes and debris flows, to be eventually used in disaster prevention and emergency management.

With more than one billion kilometers installed around the globe, optical fibers are known to be the backbone of the Internet and of worldwide communications. Less known is the use of optical fibers as sensors of different physical parameters, as mechanical deformation and temperature. With respect to traditional sensors, optical fibers offer several advantages including easiness of remote operation and intrinsic robustness to extreme conditions. Most remarkably, optical fibers enable “distributed sensing”, in which a several kilometers long cable can act as a concatenation of thousands of independent sensors. These very unique characteristics make optical fibers the sensors of choice to monitor large structures or sites, just like dikes and channels or ravines along which debris flows may develop.

DOMINO will exploit optical fibers to develop a novel distributed ground vibration sensor, tailored to the monitoring of debris flows, and novel pressure sensors, to monitor dike stability. The complementary competences needed to succeed in this goal are well represented by the proponent Team, made of two units with experience in optical fiber sensors (namely, the University of Padova, Italy, and the University of Alcala, Spain) and two units with experience in geo-hydrology (namely, the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, and the Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection, CNR, Italy). Beside the scientific activity, the Team will contribute also to the public awareness by pervasive dissemination actions and constant involvement of the relevant authorities.