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Revolutionising disaster response

Natural Language Processing presents game changing opportunity

Aotearoa New Zealand faces a growing threat from natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change. As the earth warms and extreme weather events become alarmingly frequent, our country is among those most at risk of devastation from disasters such as floods, landslips, and wildfires. This creates significant financial and operational challenges for our public and insurance sectors, as repair costs skyrocket and business as usual is disrupted.

Natural Language Processing (NLP), a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that deals with understanding and generating human language, can provide crucial support in mitigating the impact of these disasters.

There are three key areas where NLP can revolutionise disaster response:

Streamlining effective crisis communication

NLP can be used to drive timely and accurate information dissemination to affected communities and employees. Deloitte Global teams have leveraged NLP to enable rapid, multi-lingual communication en masse. For instance, NLP-powered chatbots have been implemented in organisations to allow for two-way dialogues and can be trained to offer empathetic responses, bridging the gap between live agents and traditional automation. In addition, updates to an organisation’s website can be generated in response to incoming information and posted automatically as the situation evolves. As such, NLP can be used to provide frequent and essential touchpoints for the public in times of crisis, while simultaneously clearing time for government and insurance staff to focus on other urgent tasks.

Identifying disaster events in real time through social media analysis

NLP has the remarkable ability to rapidly analyse trends within vast volumes of social media chatter, transforming this data into valuable information that can strengthen different types of disaster response. For example, following a torrential downpour, NLP can expertly identify landslips and damaged infrastructure by examining conversations on social platforms, enabling the swift determination of affected locations, timings, and impacts. By observing online forums amidst extreme weather events, NLP facilitates more efficient resource coordination, potentially offering earlier warnings to emergency services and hastening aid delivery to vulnerable and impacted communities. This approach not only bolsters recovery efforts, but it also establishes a powerful means of alleviating the financial and logistical pressures on insurance companies and New Zealand’s public sector.

Embracing diverse perspectives and indigenous insights from affected communities

NLP facilitates the collection and analysis of diverse viewpoints, empowering decision-makers to enhance the inclusivity of their efforts across different cultural groups. In the US, SMS-based chatbots have been used to gather feedback on local environmental practices and events, allowing organisations to gain a comprehensive view of the consequences for affected communities and use this insight to inform their policies. Locally, we can analyse the perceptions of a wide range of individuals following extreme weather, including those who were unable to communicate during the disaster itself. This will enable organisations to identify gaps in emergency responses. Crucially, NLP can be designed to incorporate te reo Māori, and mātauranga Māori in consultation with iwi, ensuring cultural awareness is embedded within our climate resilience initiatives while accommodating different languages. Through the collection and interpretation of this information, decision-makers in government departments and insurance companies can more effectively implement measures to support equitable recovery efforts and prepare for future extreme weather events.

NLP could revolutionise New Zealand's natural disaster response efforts. From improving crisis communications to optimising disaster response and prioritising equitable outcomes, NLP can play a vital role in reducing the impacts of natural disasters on our society and economy. As the threats posed by climate change increase in scale and frequency, investing in NLP solutions offers a valuable opportunity for government and insurance sectors to build a more resilient, equitable and inclusive future for all New Zealanders.

Get in touch to find out how Deloitte can help your organisation use natural language processing to proactively prepare for an uncertain future.