Google has announced the expansion of its Flood Hub platform, which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and publicly-available data sources, to 80 countries to address the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters caused by climate change, particularly flooding. The platform enables governments, aid organisations and individuals to access seven-day flood data forecasts that could help them to prepare and take timely action against riverine floods. Flood Hub’s AI uses two models to forecast flood: the Hydrologic Model, which predicts the amount of water in a river, and the Inundation Model, which provides information on the areas that will be affected and how much water will be there. This expansion will cover 460 million people globally, including territories with the highest percentages of population exposed to flood risk, across Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and South and Central America.
Since launching its flood forecasting in India in 2018, the technology giant has been partnering with front line and emergency workers to develop technology and programs that help keep people safe, informed and out of harm’s way. Therefore, it has expanded the platform to 18 more countries to pave the way for its global expansion in 2021. Flood Hub is part of Google’s Crisis Response work to provide people access to trusted information and resources in critical moments, which also include earthquakes and wildfires. The move seeks to help at-risk communities model the effects of climate change. However, because some vulnerable communities might not have access to a smartphone or the internet, Google.org is partnering with organizations, including the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Indian Red Cross Society and the Inclusion Economics team at Yale University, to create offline alerting networks of trained, incentivised and trusted community volunteers to amplify the reach of Flood Hub’s warnings. The most recent findings from the Yale and local non-profit Yuganter revealed that communities with local volunteers were 50% more likely to receive alerts before water reached their area — a factor that can make a difference between life and death.
This annual increase in flooding continues to impact people’s safety and livelihood, with floods potentially affecting more than 250 million people globally each year, causing around $10 billion in economic damages, according to Google. However, the company hopes its artificial intelligence-based flood forecasting technology can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Besides predicting floods, the technology is also useful in managing drought and water scarcity and monitoring water pollution.
Elsewhere, disaster prevention measures have evolved, thanks to the use of technology. Earlier in the year, researchers developed a tool that uses drones to aid disaster response by providing rescue teams with an in-depth view of potential collapse zones. This new system could help organisations to quickly assess the extent of damage to infrastructure and buildings, prioritise search and rescue operations, and help to prevent new hazards from arising while aiding eventual reconstruction.