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There is a new internet-based system that makes use of big data in disaster management. Specifically, Virtua tracks emergency 911 calls to identify locations where emergencies are most likely to happen.  It uses historical data from past 911 calls—factoring the time of day, weather and traffic conditions—to highlight areas in most need of emergency response units.

As reported by CBS Philadelphia, Virtua’s computer system predicts when and where an emergency may happen. It highlights areas where the emergency activity is most prevalent. Then it ensures units are ready within close proximity of problem areas. Virtua has 13 paramedic units using GPS locators. These are linked to a central system which sends the latest updates direct to their onboard computer systems. Units are in operation in Camden and Burlington counties. And dispatchers at a centralized location keep track of the ever-changing map. According to Virtua, the predictive model changes every 10 minutes. That means available units have to adjust to fit this change to reduce response times.

a photo of an aerial map-like view of a street colored in red and orange showing the Use of Big Data in Disaster Management

 

The Bold Move to Make Use of Big Data in Disaster Management

Virtua Assistant Vice President Scott Kasper informed CBS that “just a few weeks ago we had an area that appeared to be purple on that screen, high predictive likelihood of a call.” He continued, “Within moments of them being there a 911 call came in. They were able to respond to that call in less than two minutes.” However, some critics say it’s nearly impossible to predict when and where an emergency will occur since it is based on chance. What the Virtua system is actually charting with the use of big data in disaster management is just where the 911 calls are usually coming in, which happen to be near built-up or localized areas.

According to a report in nj.com, Virtua has come under largescale criticism because of accusations that more than half of 911 calls made to paramedic services in Camden County over the past three and a half years took more than 8 minutes to arrive. Such allegations crush the claims that the Virtua service does what it says. Indeed, as recent results imply the methods used are not really reducing emergency response times, it remains to be seen if this technology becomes more widespread.

In the end, more logical approach would tell you that computer technology is highly unlikely to be able to predict events that are dependent on the laws of chance. Unless the use of big data in disaster management can help us see into the future, we have yet to wait and see if that technological breakthrough will ever be found.

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