Online mapping supporting emergency response

March 4, 2010

In any emergency scenario, governments and agencies need good, up-to-date maps in order to respond effectively. While accurate maps exist for bigger cities, such as Conception in Chile, many remote rural areas tend to be poorly mapped out.

Yet thanks to thousands of online volunteers, more complete maps have been built to aid in both the Haiti and Chile response. For example, Crisis commons has a wiki page for the Chile earthquake, with a list of online tasks for volunteer helpers, including the Open street map project.  Various online communities have also started to support crisis mapping, among others by Google. The maps often contain specific info on the state of hospitals, location of camps, cut off roads and so on, as in the Ushahidi mapping project.

This animation of the progression of the Openstreetmap coverage in south-western Haïti following the January 2010 earthquake illustrates the rapid global mobilization of volunteer mappers to assist humanitarian operations in the field: