U.S. Government is Eyeing AI to Improve Emergency Alerts, Outreach

Artificial intelligence could eliminate uncertainty in emergency weather alerts.

U.S. Government is Eyeing AI to Improve Emergency Alerts, Outreach
Screenshot of Frank Indiviglo, chief technology officer at NOAA

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2023 – United States government agencies are eyeing artificial intelligence to aid emergency alerts and other outreach services, experts said on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking to use AI to do new kinds of analysis on storm and wildfire data, improving alert system accuracy as climate change makes natural disasters more common, said NOAA Chief Technology Officer Frank Indiviglo.

“Things you see on your local weather channel are good,” Indiviglo said, “but really understanding ahead of these events: Am I at risk? Is my family at risk? That’s what we’re working toward,” Indiviglo said at a Technology Spotlight event hosted by NextGov.

Emergency weather alerts from NOAA have been broadcast since the 1970s from the agency’s radio network, which continuously transmits forecasts otherwise. Cable TV stations broadcast the audio of their local NOAA radio station in emergencies.

The alerts warn listeners of severe weather events in their area. Coverage can be hindered by mountains, but the agency says that more than 95% of Americans live in areas covered by the system as of July 2023.

The agency’s forecasts, and thus emergency alerts, are based on data collected by physical sensors and the outputs of several mathematical models designed to give the agency a picture of what’s happening on the ground, according to NOAA technical procedures.

People have complained about other FCC alerts warning them of severe weather and other emergencies that are not in their area. More computationally intensive analysis aided by AI would help the agency issue these warnings with more precision, Indiviglo said.

Patty Delafuente, a data scientist at AI hardware and software company NVIDIA, said fielding help desk calls and other customer services are another common use case for the company’s government clients.

Language models that have ingested huge amounts of information can help government employees serve people asking what programs they qualify for, especially as more experienced workers retire, she said.

U.S. government spending on AI has exceeded $7 billion in the last three fiscal years.

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