How AI can be used as a disaster preparedness and support system
By Jeff Catlin
Nor will the current pandemic be the last. According to a 2019 report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, pandemic events are on the rise. Yet overall the global response is dangerously reactive, poorly coordinated and undermined by a “lack of continued political will.”
Fortunately, we have tools at our disposal that we can leverage to our advantage. Among them is AI, which you can implement to support and extend the capabilities of existing systems and personnel at every stage in the disaster life cycle.
For example, in our pandemic scenario, AI can mine social media data, news reports, public health data or search engine inputs to track reports of illnesses or increased queries relating to symptoms. These, together with information such as hospital admissions data, may be used to monitor the spread of a disease, raising the alarm when a certain density is reached or when geolocation data shows that individuals from an affected region are traveling into a new region. In fact, an AI system was among the first to recognize the novel coronavirus outbreak — it just needed human eyes to understand the significance.
AI’s ability to quickly and intelligently analyze large datasets makes it an invaluable resource during times of disaster. By applying it to important questions and time-critical situations, human operators can move fast and make decisions based on all available data. While AI doesn’t do away with the need for coordinated, well-funded disaster preparedness, it can help fill gaps and improve outcomes at every point during the disaster life cycle.