Responders react to a simulated natural disaster during exercise Vigilant Guard (DOD)

Can AI and connected tech foster better disaster decision-making?

Florida communities frequently battered by hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes may soon have more tools for responding to and bouncing back from disasters.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have launched a three-year interdisciplinary project that will examine how artificial intelligence and smart technologies can improve collective decision-making among emergency managers, local government agencies, businesses and nonprofits. The goal is to reduce community vulnerability and enhance resilience.

Although smart technologies -- like streetlights that monitor traffic flow or sensors that transmit real-time data about rising water levels -- provide emergency managers with situational awareness, the increasing amount of data is becoming unmanageable without some AI assistance.

One facet of the project will use AI for real-time analysis and reporting on the massive amount of incoming emergency management data -- including social media text and images -- so community leaders can be better prepared and craft informed responses.

The study, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, area will cover 78 towns and cities in eight counties in east central Florida with the idea that improvements in community resilience could be generalized to other locations.

 “The research design assessing resilience changes will help decision makers in governments, businesses and nonprofits obtain a deeper understanding of how AI-aided information technologies can advance collective decision making to reduce community vulnerability and enhance resilience,” Yue ‘Gurt’ Ge, an assistant professor in the university’s School of Public Administration and principal investigator of the project, told UCF Today.

The researchers will also develop and launch the Community Resilience Data Depot, a platform that will allow community leaders and emergency personnel to share data more easily and support real-time collective decision-making.

“The project’s proposed metrics to assess the extent and speed of achieving appropriate post-event functionality will help address a nationwide community capacity building need to quantitatively evaluate resilience increases by public-private partnerships,” Ge said.

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