Applying Technology to Disaster Response and Resiliency

Our social responsibility work mirrors our business — innovation, expertise and a dedication to the success of organizations that build stronger communities.

IBM volunteers assist with recovery from Hurricane Florence, North Carolina, 2018.


The technology and expertise IBM applies to clients’ operations can, and should, also assist organizations that prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. That’s the basis of our disaster response efforts — marshaling capabilities throughout IBM more than 80 times since 2001 to help humanitarian organizations and governments be more effective.

In 2018, IBM responded to Hurricanes Florence (in North and South Carolina) and Michael (Florida), floods in Japan and India, California wildfires, and the Indonesia earthquakes and tsunami. IBM also continued projects from our 2017 responses, continuing our commitment of $4 million in consulting and services grants to support recovery from Atlantic hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria), and grants valued at $500,000 for the Mexico earthquake.

In the aftermath of Florence, we held an event at our Research Triangle Park site in North Carolina, inviting IBMers to explore how solutions from Call for Code might help affected communities. Earlier in 2018, the first Call for Code initiative asked software developers worldwide to create open source solutions to assist disaster preparedness and recovery — and 100,000 developers from 156 countries submitted 2,500 applications. (See page 39 for more on Call for Code.)

To assist recovery from Michael, we worked with United Way to train and deploy a chatbot to augment telephone services in Florida, enabling residents to get information online about food, shelter, evacuation routes and other vital storm-related topics. It uses IBM Cognitive Automated Response Learning Agent (CARLA) technology to understand and answer typed inquiries in English or Spanish, and will be available to assist other preparedness or recovery efforts in Florida if needed.