MIT used social media to create hurricane Irma risk map

Posted Sep 11, 2017 by Ken Hanly
The Urban Risk Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has launched an open source platform designed to track flooding from Hurricane Irma in the southern Florida county of Broward.
Fort Lauderdale  Florida  is at risk from rising sea levels.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is at risk from rising sea levels.
The project provided citizens and planners updates in real time. People could submit reports via Facebook, Twitter, or Telegram. A chatbot was used by the system that could message directly on any of the three social media sites. A chatbot, also known as a chatterbot or Artificial Conversation Entity, is a computer program that simulates a conversation by auditory or textual means. They are often used in customer service or to gather information. The MIT chatbot sends users a link to which they can upload their location and include the depth of water and a photo which is then uploaded and displayed on the map.
The project is the result of collaboration between county officials and the MIT lab. For now the project is just restricted to Broward |County. The county is just north of Miami and includes Fort Lauderdale. The map is solely designed to gather information on flooding and display it. Individuals needing help, both MIT and county officials warn, should phone the emergency number 911.
Earlier this year, the MIT lab tested out the system during a flood in Indonesia. 300,000 users made reports. The lab is planning a similar project this fall in India. The lab also is hoping to repeat the project in other US countries using additional social media platforms in the future. The map website is here.
Tomas Holrderneess, who is the MIT research scientist who led the project said it showed the important role that citizen data could play in emergencies noting that ".. connecting residents and emergency managers via social messaging, [their] map helps keep people informed and improve response times." In the test in Indonesia the results were integrated in the so that drivers could know which roads to avoid.
Google maps is also helping out in the emergency as it promised to mark closed roads in its maps as soon as emergency response teams notify them that a road is closed.