IBM Helps Feds Plan Long-Term Wild Fire Response

Although not every fire can be predicted, IBM uses optimization techniques that consider factors including terrain, climate, and size of previous fires. This helps five federal agencies decide which resources they'll need and at what levels.
In an interview Monday, Kennelly said that the agencies that respond to fires haven't always been able to coordinate well and operate efficiently.

This year, responders were hit particularly hard, as 8 million acres of land were scorched. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that, only once since 1960 have more acres burned.

"You've got people from five different agencies, each [with] their own budgeting and planning objectives," she said. "So, each agency has to meet their own individual goals but they also want to work together to maximize the sharing of their resources and maximize the planning so they can be as efficient and as flexible as possible. The benefit to all of us as taxpayers is that that they're more efficiently using their funds. These guys will be better prepared to respond to fires because they can build out all these scenarios and plan more creatively."

IBM has done similar On Demand work to help trucking companies maximize their travel so truckers don't have to waste gas and time returning with empty loads.

"What scientists here like to say is that they really want to work on the kinds of problems the clients have tried to solve and can't," Kennelly said. "They really like looking at problems no one else can solve."

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