Many people worldwide live in areas that are in real danger of natural disasters. While you might not be in the direct path of a hurricane, you may have family and friends who are in trouble. Tap or click here for ways to prepare for power outages and blackouts.
One way to avoid the danger is by paying attention to warnings from official resources. The problem is those resources haven’t been as high-tech as they should be to help. Until now. Google is working with frontline emergency workers and other organizations and using artificial intelligence (AI) to send life-saving notifications.
Read on to find out how the system works and ways it could help you avoid disaster.
Here’s the backstory
Google started a flood forecasting initiative in 2018 to help people in at-risk areas quickly get notifications and critical alerts. Over the first three years, the company worked with the Indian Central Water Commission and the Bangladesh Water Development Board to send out 40 million potential flood alerts.
That rapidly expanded to use machine learning to send 115 million flood alert notifications to 23 million people over Google Search and Maps last year. While the initial warning system targeted India, Google has updated the technology to include river basins in 18 additional countries across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
The company also launched a new global FloodHub website where you can track potential flooding in real-time. The hub displays flood forecasts and shows when and where they may occur to help those directly at risk and provide critical information to aid organizations and governments, explained Google.
Zooming into a location on the map shows you where the current water levels are and indicate the forecasted level over several days. It also shows you how deep the water might get.
Google’s natural disaster alerts
Wildfires are also getting worse than we’ve seen in previous years and have destroyed countless properties and caused some deaths. Google is tackling this problem using new AI models based on satellite imagery to detect wildfire boundaries.
The company has tracked 30 wildfires since June this year in the U.S. and Canada, and the latest update to Google Maps and Search makes it also available to Mexico and parts of Australia.
However, you might not notice changes in the usual wildfire tracking tool, as most upgrades are behind the scenes. Google said it’s a big deal for the company, and you can expect more coverage and the tool is more accurate.
To see wildfires in your area is relatively simple. Just open Google Maps on your desktop or Android phone and tap the layers icon on the explore screen. A menu will appear with a wildfires icon. Tap the wildfires icon, and the map will display all active wildfires near you.
Google will send natural disaster alerts by default to Android phones. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll need to download the free Google Search app to receive alerts.