An introduction to crisis mapping


Information is the key of an effective and efficient disaster response.

When a disaster occurs, the first and most important step for responders is to get a picture of what is happening. Which cities or villages have been affected? What are the urgent needs of the population? Which roads are blocked? These are the kind of questions that need to be answered in the first hours after a disaster strikes.
People use mobile phones to share information and post pictures on social media, and this happens also during a disaster. And some of these entries contains exactly the kind of information that responders are looking for.

But how to find relevant information when a disaster can generate literally millions of data? And how to make sense of these data, which are often unstructured, heterogeneous and fragmented over a large number of messages across multiple platforms?

Standby Task Force and Crisis mapping

The Standby Task Force is specialized in crisis mapping and, thanks to its extensive network of volunteers, is able to provide humanitarian responders real time, interactive maps that give an insight on how the situation is evolving during a disaster. A crisis map can be an important tool for emergency aid efforts, because it helps to make sense of the big data generated during a disaster and organize a more efficient humanitarian response. The aim is to enable relief workers to assess conditions more quickly and support them into their decision making process.

Crisis mapping is an interdisciplinary field, and many skills are needed in order to produce crisis maps.
Through real time media monitoring and social media listening, we first collect millions pieces of crisis related data. We analyze these big data and we create several datasets containing the most relevant information, which are verified and geolocated by the volunteers. These multiple datasets are then weaved onto an interactive map, in order to present the complex scenario generated by the disaster in a visually compelling form. We are also testing some new, cutting edge technologies, such as AIDR (Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response) and UAVs (drones).