Can AI Research Help Communities Weather the Storm?
By Stephanie Tennyson, Government Affairs Lead and Emily Grover-Kopec, Director of Insurance at One Concern
Houston is a city that knows firsthand the importance of creating resilient communities, so it was an honor to address the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology here regarding our R&D.
At One Concern, we collaborate with policymakers, emergency management officials, first responders, and the private sector to save lives and livelihoods before, during, and after natural disasters. Our work is based in science, and would be impossible without the R&D performed and funded by the U.S. government and our country’s top universities. Because of our multi-sector approach, we’ve learned to combine innovative modeling and risk analytics with community-led action and resilience-building practices.
Why use AI?
We are developing technology to minimize the impact of floods like what Houston experienced during Hurricane Harvey, as well as similar models for earthquakes and wildfires. Unlike traditional emergency response planning, AI models reduce human bias and fill in gaps in data. With our product, emergency responders can attain objective situational awareness in near real-time during crises.
Machine learning and AI sit at the core of these analytics, unlocking interactions between complex disciplines. These powerful mathematical algorithms leverage several fields of scientific study including hydrodynamic and hydrological coupled science, structural engineering, fluid mechanics, seismic and atmospheric sciences.
A specific example of One Concern’s unique research efforts is our flood platform. It creates a high-resolution understanding of impending inundation based on weather forecasts and state-of-the-art flood models. Our AI-driven approach corrects and updates data during the event, thus addressing the core complexity associated with modeling floods: their dynamic nature.
Our vision is that Houston’s hesitancy to evacuate millions of people in a potential hazard zone will become a situation of the past as technologies like ours provide a granular view of an impacted area at a block level up to five days out from the flooding event. This provides an understanding of which populations face the greatest risk and, through our continued R&D process, will allow first responders to understand the impact of mitigative actions. Responders can plan targeted evacuations, sandbagging, and other measures that divert flood water away from people and critical infrastructure. This level of situational intelligence can change outcomes.
Planning for resilience
Event response and preparedness is crucial, but technology such as One Concern’s platform could have even more impact for pre-disaster mitigation and resilient infrastructure planning.
First and foremost, policies that intend to drive resilient planning must be equitable. We support mitigating overall societal risk — not just financial risk, which tends to be biased toward the most affluent. Instead, our data and models assess the baseline resilience of the entire community: How will natural hazards have direct structural impact to assets? What are the indirect impacts to critical infrastructure, like schools and hospitals? Our R&D aims to help governments make equitable and informed decisions around resilience.
Additionally, access to insurance to support a community’s recovery plays a critical role in resilience to disasters such as hurricanes and their associated flooding. Underinsurance to a comprehensive view of risk to natural hazards means businesses can struggle to bounce back from disasters.
One Concern wants to democratize information about risk exposure for residents and businesses alike. To do this, we assess the holistic risk to a business, including the risk to its physical structures as well as its dependencies: access to power lines, water pipes, roads, and bridges. Finally, by partnering with businesses and insurers to provide a transparent assessment of that risk, we support the development of new insurance products that will help businesses, their communities, and the economy recover after disasters.
We would like to thank Chair Fletcher and the Committee for inviting us to share One Concern’s ongoing R&D efforts at this important hearing. We’re excited to craft a more resilient future together.
Modified from Emily Grover-Kopec’s testimony to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment in Houston on July 22, 2019
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