AI Startups Promise to Help Disaster Relief and Evacuation

No relief in sight as Australian drought fuels bushfires

The drought sweeping through large tracts of Australia is set to intensify over the next three months and is fuelling unseasonal winter bushfires, the leading meteorological agency and a fire official said on Thursday.  The Bureau of Meteorology forecast of more warm, dry weather suggests hopes for a reprieve from what farmers describe as the worst drought they have ever seen are unlikely to be realized before the Australian summer.

An unusually warm winter followed by what is expected to be a warmer-than-average spring “would mean intensification of the existing drought conditions across parts of eastern Australia”, the bureau’s outlook report said…


AI Startups Promise to Help Disaster Relief and Evacuation

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“You can save an order-of-magnitude more lives with good planning” Illustration: Katya Dorokhina for Bloomberg Businessweek

As record wildfires raced through California’s wine country last October, devouring thousands of homes, Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies drove up and down streets with sirens blaring, warning residents over bullhorns to evacuate. Twenty-four people didn’t make it, and more than half of them were at least 70 years old. That suggests they either couldn’t hear the warnings or couldn’t leave under their own power, according to Sarah Tuneberg. “Those people did not need to die,” she says.

Tuneberg’s company, Geospiza Inc., sells artificial intelligence software that scours data to help cities find and protect their most vulnerable residents during a disaster. She says the platform can check multiple databases to guess which residents, in this case, have hearing impairments or use…

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