Map Tales

Humanitarian Mapping – Crowdsourcing For Good

What is HOT?

In crisis situations like an earthquake, volcanic eruption, avalanche or epidemic, first responders need up-to-date digital maps to navigate the affected area. However, many remote regions around the world simply do not have the data necessary for aid groups to safely traverse city streets and locate rural villages post-disaster. In the event of a disaster, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) mobilizes volunteer mappers around the world to focus their efforts on data deficient regions.

What we do

OpenStreetMap volunteers create digital maps in a web browser using satellite imagery to identify road networks, buildings, and natural resources. Volunteers may also add names of features or directional flow of rivers and roads when knowledge or image quality allows. The end product is similar to any navigation app but includes features of high importance to responders such as hospitals, school fields that serve as helicopter landing pads, and pedestrian-only dirt paths. Responders on site in the disaster zone can download these data at any time and use it to inform their disaster response decisions in the field.

Click below to read more about how the University of Vermont Humanitarian Mapping Club has organized mapathons to help people impacted by natural disasters in Ecuador and Sri Lanka.

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About the author

Leslie Pelch

Leslie Pelch is the Outreach Coordinator at the Vermont Center for Geographic Information. More info