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Exploring the Power of AI in Disaster Risk Reduction: How UNDRR harnesses technology

To kickstart our AI in Disaster Risk Reduction conversations on the Igniting Change podcast, we are joined by Mayleen Cabral, Partnerships Officer at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). In this episode, we explore the role of AI in all elements of Disaster Risk Reduction, the importance of collaboration, and some specific examples of AI-driven solutions. From simple notification apps that have become essential lifelines to sophisticated systems that have the power to dissect and disseminate vital data, tune in for this enlightening conversation about the technology that is shaping a safer tomorrow.


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The number of disasters is projected to reach 560 a year – or 1.5 disasters a day – by 2030.

An alarming and staggering number from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and exactly why we wanted to bring Mayleen Cabral, Partnerships Officer for UNDRR on to an episode of the Igniting Change podcast to spotlight the incredible work her organisation is doing to protect people and save lives.

Also working as a firefighter in the Dominican Republic, Mayleen has first-hand experience in this space by working as a firefighter in the Dominican Republic which made her intimately aware of the importance of timely information and responses when disaster strikes. Both of these factors are often the difference between life and death.

This is where AI and technology come in.

AI is a crucial development that can evolve our resilience, identify different risks, and reduce the risk of disasters. But it is important to recognise that AI has its own challenges and this conversation tackles those challenges.

We're still lacking the knowledge of really understanding what we're using, and I think that's what we need to kind of catch up to, and how can we explain it to the masses of how things are really functioning, how the process really works

Mayleen Cabral, Partnerships Officer, UNDRR

AI and Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster Risk Reduction is composed of the following:

  • Preparedness and mitigation approaches
  • Efficient response action
  • Recovery process

Mayleen explains how these are often seen as individual stages or as a cycle, but that she sees them as overlapping elements due to the influence each element has on the other two. 

Within this space, AI aids in all three areas by increasing efficiency, precision, and timely data collection, which then supports the decision-making for policymakers and the responders on the ground.

Also, we discussed the specific uses of AI for each of the three elements, including:

  • Risk assessments for preparedness
    • Frequency of possible hazards
    • Location of possible hazards
    • Exposure to possible hazards
  • Recommendations to aid preparedness
    • Good practices
    • Mitigation strategies
    • Sustainable solutions
  • Geospatial satellite data for response
    • Support crisis analysis
    • Identify levels of impact
    • Identify the required resources
  • Predictive analysis to help build back better
    • Ongoing risk analysis
    • AI learns from experiences
    • Providing sustainable solutions

But AI in Disaster Risk Reduction is not without its challenges!

We provide the data that AI uses to give results, so it is extremely important to consider and evaluate the context and sources of the data that is used.

Secondly, knowledge of the AI process is key. Especially within Disaster Risk Reduction, Mayleen shares her thoughts about the benefits of users also developing their understanding of AI so they can use it effectively.

For risks to reduce, there needs to be an increase of capacity, and that means knowledge, that means resources, that means collaboration, etc

Mayleen Cabral, Partnerships Officer, UNDRR

In this episode, Mayleen also reveals some insight into a collaborative report focused on better understanding how technology is used in the Americas and the Caribbean. Keep a look out for its release (hopefully) later this year!

Another resource Mayleen highlights is PreventionWeb. This UNDRR webpage allows you to explore information and learn more about the various topics discussed in today’s episode! Published from across the globe, you can view examples of good practices, standards, guidelines, and Disaster Risk Reduction projects.

Other resources

Mayleen and Puff discussed the following organisations that utilise technology and also collaborate with locals to validate data and understand impacts on a local level:

Listen to the full episode here

Don’t miss the conversation! Listen to the full episode below to hear all the details and be inspired by the potential that AI has in this space.

For more things tech for good, stay tuned to our blog or shout us a holla to get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you 💚

Published on March 14, 2024, last updated on March 14, 2024

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