Can Algorithms Predict House Fires?

Cities can use readily-accessible data to get smarter on building safety. It’s not possible to know whether a place is unsafe without an investigation. But it is possible, in advance, to estimate the probability of a problem, given some additional information. Atlanta Fire Department worked with data analysts who trained an algorithm to find how attributes like buildings’ size, condition, location, and age had contributed to the distribution of past fires, and to predict future ones. Their strategy, which they named Firebird, was two and a half times more efficient than the one most inspections departments follow.


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