Jen Q. Public: Analytics for emergency preparedness and response

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

Having grown up in the Caribbean, hurricanes there are quite common. A hurricane hitting our island was never a question of if, but when. Even if we didn’t get a direct hit in any one year, at least one time during the year we had to board up our windows and hunker down as heavy rains would prevail when the tail of a hurricane passed by.

We cannot stop hurricanes or natural disasters. However, how we prepare for, respond to and recover from unexpected disasters and emergencies is critical. A recent article suggested that the massive flooding in South Carolina is another example of just how destructive natural disasters can be and how communities are often ill prepared for them. What can we do to enhance natural disaster preparedness? 

We are still in the thick of hurricane season, and unfortunately many are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Joaquin. Thankfully, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—the costliest storm in US history—some remarkable strides in disaster preparedness have been made. But can analytics improve emergency management? Some IBM emergency management experts answer this question with an emphatic “yes.”

With the help of analytics today, cities, states and countries can better prepare for disaster. Analytics helps determine the equipment and resources needed to accelerate response time. When planning for a natural disaster, experts consider many different scenarios. If a natural disaster actually occurs, analytics can dictate which plan emergency agencies implement, such as assessing which levees need fortification.

Dr. Gary Nestler, global leader for emergency management at IBM, said that officials can utilize analytics during and after a disaster to help determine the impact of the number of casualties taken to hospitals. Analytics can also help determine what time people need to be off the roads, where police need to deploy added services and even how long recovery will take. And in today’s socially active world, analytics plays a huge part in mining social feeds to dispatch aid where it is needed during a crisis.

As the seasons change and we move toward winter and possible blizzards, knowing that analytics can better prepare us and help us recover from natural disasters and extreme events is reassuring.

And that's analytics in the public sector through my lens. Until next time,

Jen Q.