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September 16, 2020

FloodBot: Using sensors and social media to alert residents of dangerous flash floods.

A University of Maryland, Baltimore County team, with funding from the National Science Foundation, has developed a rapid flood warning system for Ellicott City, Maryland after floods devasted the city. Twelve Flood Bot sensors installed in 2019 detect and monitor water levels in the Patapsco River and other critical flood points close to and around the Old Ellicott City downtown area. The team combined past data from sensors and details on how residents reacted on social media to flood events, to enhance FloodBot’s community alert system, and grow resident trust in the technology. With an increase in social media following via re-tweets during storms, FloodBot is becoming the community’s eyes and can act as a spokesperson during dangerous storms. It can tweet on its own, keeping local officials and its followers informed about rising water levels and flood threats, helping officials re-route and even close streets that are flooded or are in danger of flooding, in real-time. Ellicott City is just one testbed. The UMBC team is currently working with its hardware partner to deploy sensors in Michigan and Virginia. They are working toward mass deployment not only in the USA but worldwide. FloodBot stands ready to be tested this hurricane season, helping local authorities and emergency managers better prepare for possible flash flooding,  saving property and lives. 

Credit: National Science Foundation

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