In these days Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the United States, especially scaring people who live in Florida.
For this event, MIT Urban Risk Lab launched a free and open source platform helping residents and government officials in tracking flooding. The platform’s name is RiskMap.us, and it enables everyone to obtain information in near-real time.
In effect, residents can add information to the map via social media channels. In particular, users submit reports through Facebook, Twitter and Telegram, by sending a message to the Risk Map chatbot, which replies with a link through which they can upload any kind of information.
The map can be viewed to see flood reports, and so to understand how the flood conditions are changin across all the county.
As said by Tomas Holderness, a research scientist in the MIT Department of Architecture, “this project shows the importance that citizen data has toplay in emergencies. By connecting residents and emergency managers via social messaging, our map helps keep people informed and improve response times.”
RiskMap.us announcement has been part of Broward County’s preparedness communications as the area braces for the storm.
In a news conference on Friday, Broward County Mayor has said:“Once the reports are generated, we’ll be able to gather information and create a publicly available map in real time [to] allow those who are in flooded areas to travel safely if they need to, and to understand what the risks are around them. This type of information will assist us with assessing damage in realtime during the storm event and help prioritize response efforts after the storm.”
Of course, Risk Map is only a flood-reporting platform, which does not substitue in any case the 911 emergency number.
Risk Map Project is part of a collaboration of a collaboration between the above mentioned county and the MIT Urban Risk Lab, which develops method and technologies to embed risk reduction and preparedness into the design of cities and regions to increase the resilience of local communities.
This is just the first step. MIT is working to expand the map to new counties and add other social media platforms in the future.
Urban Risk Lab also piloted the system in Indonesia during a flood occurred on February 20, 2017. In Indonesia, the project is called PetaBencana.id.
During that Indonesian flood, the public website was visited by more the 300,000 users in 24 hours, and the map was also integrated into Uber application to help drivers avoid flood waters.
Urban Risk Lab is also working on RiskMap.in, platform thought for India, with the support of TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT.
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