Predicting Evacuation Decisions using Representations of Individuals' Pre-Disaster Web Search Behavior
Takahiro Yabe, Kota Tsubouchi, Toru Shimizu, Yoshihide Sekimoto and Satish Ukkusuri
Predicting the evacuation decisions of individuals before the disaster strikes is crucial for planning first response strategies. In addition to the studies on post-disaster analysis of evacuation behavior, there are various works that attempt to predict the evacuation decisions beforehand. Most of these predictive methods, however, require real time location data for calibration, which are becoming much harder to obtain due to the rising privacy concerns. Meanwhile, web search queries of anonymous users have been collected by web companies. Although such data raise less privacy concerns, they have been under-utilized for various applications. In this study, we investigate whether web search data observed prior to the disaster can be used to predict the evacuation decisions. More specifically, we utilize a session-based query encoder that learns the representations of each user’s web search behavior prior to evacuation. Our proposed approach is empirically tested using web search data collected from users affected by a major flood in Japan. Results are validated using location data collected from mobile phones of the same set of users as ground truth. We show that evacuation decisions can be accurately predicted (84%) using only the users’ pre-disaster web search data as input. This study proposes an alternative method for evacuation prediction that does not require highly sensitive location data, which can assist local governments to prepare effective first response strategies.
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