Equity, Shelters and Natural Disaster

Where do you go if a natural disaster impacts your home? What if it is a huge disaster that affects your whole city? City dwellers expect city municipality, federal government crisis management agencies, and humanitarian organizations to provide services to all disaster-affected persons without considering race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. This is only achievable if we explicitly consider the equality of service in the decision-making process.

The picture below shows the map of one of the most populated districts of Istanbul. Istanbul is a disaster-prone city where experts expect a major earthquake in the next ten years. In the figure, green squares represent the potential location of shelters, and the red dots present the center of neighborhoods. Due to budgetary restrictions, humanitarian organizations can only open and maintain a few shelters in each district.

Potential Shelter locations and population concentration points in Kartal district, Istanbul

In a study, we design an intelligent algorithm that takes shelter location decisions considering all operational and budgetary restrictions while reducing the inequality of physical distance to shelters among all affected people. We observe that humanitarian organizations can make inequality-aware decisions and simultaneously increase their operations’ efficiency and reduce costs. For more detail, refer to our published paper. Also, the python implementation of our optimization algorithm is available at GitHub for free.