Mapping tools

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Reference Group Technology and Innovation
Contributors User:Eileenc, User:tim.miller, User:Mark.Tragellas

We aim to provide links to mapping tools and apps and examples of how they are used. Please feel free to add this list to ensure we are up to date.



Online maps are now being created to show the impact of past disasters and extreme weather events on the community.

During an emergency maps are created online to provide realtime updates from emergency agencies and the community.

Finding information on previous disasters and extreme weather events

  • Search your local government agency website to see if they have published an online map showing the impact of past disasters and extreme weather events on the community.
  • Look for other organisations that might also provide this information
  • Use this information to help with your emergency preparation plan and your evacuation plan.


Green Cross Australia 'Harden Up' disaster resilience portal encourages people to take practical steps to become more self reliant and resilient to severe weather events and diasters. The online map contains historical information and photos of the impact of severe weather events on local communities in the state of Queensland, Australia. [1]

Finding realtime information

  • Look for reports near you. Search the web for "Google Crisis Response"
  • Download the mobile app (if there is one) to receive information from your mobile phone

Sharing realtime information

  • Share community maps on your facebook page
  • Tweet links to community maps
  • Add your own information on what is happening in your local area to these maps
  • Use the report's comments section to connect with neighbours

If you are in an emergency and it is safe for you to do so, you can share local information from the scene to publicly to warn others

  • eg. If you download the mobile app (if the crowdsourcing map has one) you can then add information from your mobile phone eg "Jones Bridge closed".
  • Take a photo (if safe to do so) and send that with your message
  • Enable GPS on your phone so that your messages and photos are 'geocoded'. This makes it easier for emergency agencies and the media to verify your information and pinpoint the location of the emergency.
  • Geocoded photos also help the media share the warnings as it enables them to quickly verify the image before circulating.
  • Take a video on your phone (if safe to do so) and send that with your message.
  • NB You can also do all of the above and send as a Tweet and a Facebook message to spread the warnings further
  • See App for Hurricane Irene[2]

Example Hurricane Irene Mapping Tools

Maps for Hurricane Irene (This list is from Crisis Commons site, check here for updates [3]) Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder

NYC OASIS Map with Evac Zones + Shelters (more info)

ArcGIS Map of Evacuation Zones

NYC Hurrican Evacuation Zones + Shelters (1.5mb PDF)

NYS GIS Clearinghouse

American Red Cross Maps

More links and raw data at

Esri Latest News Map - Irene (Social Media Mashup)

Google Crisis Response Team Map

ubAlert - pronounced "You Be Alert"is a real time, global disaster and emergency incident mapping web application that also allows users to verify incidents in their area. Mobile ubAlert apps for iPad and iPhone are already available, with other platforms to follow.

Google Crisis Response

Google Crisis Response has developed a suite of tools to assist in disaster response and recovery. Here are its mapping tools.

Custom Google Maps


Google Maps enables custom creation of maps to supply critical crisis information to teams or to the public. Eg:

  • Mark crisis information such as road closures and resources such as emergency medical stations
  • Draw lines and shapes to highlight paths and areas that are covered in debris
  • Add your own text, photos, and videos to provide context
  • Share your map with co-workers, media outlets, and partners. Control whether it’s available publicly, or privately within your network.
  • Import KML, KMZ, and RSS formatted data into your map, to host on Google’s servers and share broadly

Case studies on the Google Crisis Response site include:

  • Custom Google Map to share information during the New Zealand Earthquake
  • Custom Google Map to provide real-time updates on the San Diego wildfires

See the Google Crisis Response sitefor "How to" guides on Creating Custom Maps

Google Earth

Google Earth is a virtual globe and geographical information platform that enables users to see places in great geographic detail. It can be customised with editing tools to draw shapes, add text, and integrate live feeds of information such as earthquakes as they happen. Examples:

  • Compare pre- and post-disaster images of an impacted location
  • Explore the places you are working through the many information layers built into Google Earth, or through files (KMLs) that you download from the Gallery or other websites
  • Add markers and customize them with text, photos, and videos - only you can see the things you add until you save them as a KML file and share them with others

Case studies on the Google Crisis Response site include:

  • International Medical Corps tracked response efforts in Google Earth during the Haiti Earthquake
  • Doctors without Borders visualized cholera case origins during the Haiti Earthquake

See the Google Crisis Response sitefor "How to" guides

Google Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables enable organisations to gather, visualize and share data online with employees and other response organizations and constituents. Examples:

  • Visualize your data from shelter lists to power outages instantly as a map or a chart.
  • Identify data patterns to aid in crisis decision making
  • Show the world your work in real time by embedding your map or chart in a web page
  • Collaborate with other responders by merging your data, allowing you to see all important related information in one place

Case studies on the Google Crisis Response site include:

  • Map of the London riots showing English indices of deprivation and riot locations
  • Map of Japanese Tsunami road status

See the Google Crisis Response sitefor "How to" guides


Ushahidi Platform

The Ushahidi platform is a mapping tool to enable communities to easily crowdsource disaster information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web and display it on an interactive map. [4]

There is also a smartphone app that the public can download to make sharing disaster information much easier:

  • Android App: [5]
  • Iphone/Ipad App: [6]

You can also setup alerts for when new information is added to information in your target location.

Crowdmap enables emergency agencies to setup the crowdsource map without having to install it on your own web server [7]

Examples Emergency Recovery for Hurricane Sandy

The SwiftRiver Platform

This platform (also by Ushahidi) enables agencies to filter and verify real-time data from channels like Twitter, SMS, Email and RSS feeds. [8]



Hurricane Irene Mashup Map of Tweets, Videos

Crisis Cleanup

Crisis Cleanup Platform

The Crisis Cleanup platform is a free, open source disaster relief mapping tool that helps hundreds of relief organisations coordinate cleanup and rebuilding efforts. We've already connected • 3 Countries • 40,000+ volunteers from • 160+ organisations with • 9 states and • 9 disasters. Crisis Cleanup was developed by and for field volunteers, team leaders, canvassers, and the people who work one-on-one with people whose homes have been affected by flood, tornadoes, earthquakes, wind, fire, or other disaster. Crisis Cleanup can respond to a new disaster the same day, permitting relief organisations to instantly coordinate efforts. Crisis Cleanup implements a "Craigslist" philosophy to recovery efforts– organisations that are aware of work orders enter them into the system, and organisations with capacity to help can claim and perform the work. The system is not public, but it is open and transparent among participating organisations. No centralized organisation is "in charge." This non-threatening approach minimizes duplication and maximizes communication, coordination, and efficiency. While entering a client into the platform Crisis Cleanup does not guarantee that he or she will be served, it guarantees visibility and maximizes the chances for assistance, while helping relief organisations prioritize their limited resources. Crisis Cleanup in the United States was awarded the FedEx Innovative Program of the Year Award at the 2013 National VOAD conference. Disaster relief organisations may join as long as they: 1. Have a physical presence in a disaster area, 2. Perform assessments and/or gutting, mucking-out, debris removal, mould abatement, or rebuilding and 3. Are reputable. Crisis Cleanup is free of charge.

Crisis Cleanup is at [9] Crisis Cleanup Australia is at [10] Crisis Cleanup India is at [11]


To search for and view tweets in your area (or around the world - geocoded) you can go to Trendsmap

Selecting your area

On the Trendsmap website, type your city, town or area into the search field in the right side of the banner and press Enter. Then refine your location to the desired country in the drop down list that is presented. The search results will present the top tweets for your query.

Searching for a trending hashtag or subject

Enter hashtag or subject in the search field. Select subjects or locations from drop down list presented below the search field. Selecting a location will present the top tweets for your location. Selecting a topic will present a global map showing where the topic is trending.

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