How Supercomputing Can Support Public Authorities in Crisis Management

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Simulation using supercomputers could help public authorities prepare for and manage emergency situations like floods, pandemics, or migration events. Photo: Adobe Stock

Stuttgart, Germany — July 4, 2024 — In the project CIRCE (Computational Immediate Response Center for Emergencies), the High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Stuttgart (HLRS) has been investigating how simulations running on supercomputers could help public administrations across Germany to prepare for and manage crisis events like natural disasters or pandemics. In a recent symposium in Berlin, HLRS presented its preliminary findings, revealing applications of high-performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence, and data analytics for crisis response as well as administrative and technical challenges that will need to be addressed.


“As we have seen in the COVID-19 pandemic and recent devastating floods across Germany, public administrations face large challenges in preventing future disasters,” says Dr. Bastian Koller, General Manager at HLRS. “At the same time, we know that simulations running on high-performance computers can help in assessing risks, guiding investments in prevention, and ultimately saving lives. By engaging in dialogue with public officials at all levels, CIRCE is developing a very practical understanding of what specific problems they face, what digital resources they have available, and what administrative hurdles need to be overcome to ensure that computing resources are available when crises arise. By demonstrating the capabilities of HPC in pilot scenarios, we also want to show public officials how simulation would enable them to better manage the local risks they face.”

At a full-day symposium in Berlin, the CIRCE team presented its preliminary findings to representatives of public administration and experts in disaster response. Dr. Ralf Schneider of HLRS also reported on a collaboration between HLRS and the Duisburg fire department, which is focused on simulating the potential effects of a dike break on the river Rhine. In addition, data experts at German federal governmental institutes enriched the discussions by describing how data is currently used in government planning and decision making, and offered insights into the challenges of developing tools for crisis computing in light of Germany’s complex, federalized system of government.

A detailed meeting report is now available at the following link:

A recording of the livestream from the event is also available. (German language):

Key findings presented at the symposium include the following:

  • A qualitative, interview-based survey of representatives of federal, state, and local agencies, as well as crisis response organizations found that many recognize opportunities for using simulation to address challenges they face, including migration, pandemics, floods, wildfires, chemical or nuclear accidents, and terrorist attacks.
  • In collaborations with the Duisburg fire department and the Federal Institute for Population Research, HLRS is demonstrating how supercomputers can be used in preventing and responding to crisis situations.
  • HPC centers like HLRS can provide the tools and expertise necessary to run large-scale crisis computing simulations. Collaboration with local representatives and domain expertise is required, however, to develop the right simulations and to validate their accuracy.
  • Extensive planning and preparation are required before using HPC in crisis situations to ensure that the necessary data are available, that the correct software is developed, that the resulting simulations are trustworthy, and that workflows are in place to evaluate and act on the information they provide.
  • The federalized structure of German government presents challenges to the development of crisis computing applications. Collaboration, data sharing, and standardization of emergency simulations across federal, state, and local agencies will save development costs. They will also ensure that solutions are interoperable and widely available.
  • In preparations for crisis situations, government agencies will need to determine what organizations should have access to German public HPC centers and how this usage will be funded.
  • Increased training in information technologies and a culture of digitalization are needed for workers at all levels of public administration. This would not only improve their ability to use emergency simulations, but also to identify potential applications of simulation in addressing crisis situations.

CIRCE is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and Art. For more information, visit

About the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart

The High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) was established in 1996 as Germany’s first national high-performance computing center, building on a tradition of supercomputing at the University of Stuttgart that stretches back to 1959. As a research institution affiliated with the University of Stuttgart and a founding member of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing — the alliance of Germany's three national supercomputing centers — HLRS provides state-of-the-art HPC services to academic users and industry. HLRS operates one of Europe's most powerful supercomputers, provides advanced training in HPC programming and simulation, and conducts research to address key problems facing the future of supercomputing. Among HLRS's areas of expertise are parallel programming, numerical methods for HPC, visualization, cloud computing concepts, high-performance data analytics (HPDA), and artificial intelligence. Users of HLRS computing systems are active across a wide range of disciplines, with an emphasis on computational engineering and applied science.

Press contact

Sophia Honisch
Head, Public Relations
High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart
Tel.: +49 (0) 711 / 685-68038