HAP Blog

Is AI the Future of Emergency Management?

How to incorporate AI into your day to day emergency planning

April 13, 2023

If you have watched any bit of news during the last few months, I am sure you have heard about the craze around artificial intelligence (AI).

Yes, AI has been around for years. If you haven’t been following the headlines, I can tell you that the latest AI systems have been learning. A lot.

In emergency management, AI isn’t some new trend. We’ve been interested in this tech long before ChatGPT became the next big thing. AI has been especially useful when it comes to predictive analytics, such as forecasting when and where an evacuation may be necessary. We also see it in our weather models, so we can know the severity of the storms heading our way.

It’s easy to look at the possibilities for AI and extrapolate what it will mean for health care. Some scenarios are more fanatical—or perhaps Orwellian—than others, but there is limitless potential. Could we soon see AI physicians, perhaps a next-level webMD, in our facilities? Imagine a world where you upload an image of a mole, and AI tells you if it is cancerous or pre-cancerous. There are many other health-related ways AI could diagnose you without even seeing a human doctor. This is all made possible by years of deep learning, but we are just starting to envision a world blending this technology with our own learned experience.

As emergency managers, we will need to be in the know about this. While we ponder a hypothetical world of AI physicians, we already see real-life examples of this technology in action. We also must consider a whole new set of vulnerabilities to keep on our radar related to data, privacy, and cybersecurity.

We saw AI deployed during COVID-19 to conduct facial scans to determine temperature, sweat, and discoloration, among other symptoms. We are starting to see the deployment of robots to perform basic functions, such as obtaining vital signs and delivering medication that otherwise would require human contact with a nurse, nurses’ aides, or physicians. Using AI to perform services allows facilities to reserve PPE to conduct checks and attend to more critical patients, and we can expect to see more applications in the years to come.

Then, there is OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This tool allows the user to enter a command and, in a few seconds, receive a response. The experience feels a bit different than other so-called “chatbots,” as you are able to provide follow-up commands based on your previous responses.

I asked Chat GPT to provide me with a tabletop exercise around extreme heat. Within 10 seconds, I had myself a scenario, exercise objectives, and exercise injects. I followed up my initial request with a command to provide exercise questions related to my extreme heat command. After a few more seconds, I had 10 questions related to the hospital’s response to extreme heat. To take it even further, I added another layer to my extreme heat exercise to include a loss of air conditioning service to my hospital. I then was provided eight more questions related to that scenario. I basically had an entire tabletop exercise created for me in about 15 seconds.

Here is your important disclaimer: This work is a starting point, but it is not something you could copy and paste for your facility. Still, all of this legwork already done in a mere 15 seconds was pretty impressive.

Need a plan? Look no further either. In some cases you will get generic information, as the AI understands its limits. For example, I asked ChatGPT to provide me an evacuation plan for my hospital. AI told me that there are many factors such as location and size, among others that limit its ability to provide a specific plan. However, it did provide me with a list of things to consider when creating this plan, and it was very accurate. For someone who needs some ideas, this is a great resource, but you’ll need to bring your real-world experience to the table to fill in the critical details.

My big takeaway from all of this: AI is here and it is not going anywhere. We all will need to embrace it, learn it, and understand its potential role in our lives. Most of all, I’d recommend you follow the latest AI innovations and think about how they could help you. The AI will not replace your job or your skills, but you could potentially learn something that makes you a better emergency manager.


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