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Jen Q. Public: Data analytics for smarter emergency management

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

August 20, 7:13 p.m.

Dear diary,

I can’t believe 10 years have passed since we were reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Many news outlets are sharing stories about the anniversary of the tragic event, and President Obama is planning to visit New Orleans.

Being from the Caribbean, I am very aware of the hurricane season every year between June and November. My mom becomes the weather woman as she monitors the reports and keeps us informed of every weather system she sees. Even a tropical depression can cause havoc on a small island or a less-developed nation.

The other day I caught the tail end of an interview with Craig Fugate, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He discussed hurricanes, cyberattacks and especially droughts as serious hazards. Thankfully, technology and analytics are changing the way we prepare for and respond to emergencies. The focus today may be on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, but incidents and emergencies happen globally.

I ran into a colleague at the coffee shop, and while talking about the Hurricane Katrina anniversary he shared that 21st century technologies using data analytics coupled with social and mobile technology present a rich opportunity to streamline and integrate preparation, response, recovery and mitigation of what he called “a daily set of unexpected incidents” and emergencies and disasters. Today we have the ability to connect data from disparate sources so that government agencies such as FEMA and others can have insight and advance warning of extreme weather events and conditions of buildings, roads and infrastructure. Armed with this insight, governments and states can streamline and integrate their responses to crises.

Emergency management in the 21st century gives me great hope. It's that sunshine after a storm.

Until next time.

Sincerely,

Jen Q. Public