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Posted on October 3rd, 2017

Mapping for Good – October 2017: Humanitarian Open Street Map: A Plea For Volunteers

Our Mapping For Good series has now hit its year anniversary! It’s safe to say that this small span of twelve months has seen tremendous changes in the world, many of which are in desperate need of crowdsourced mapping. Just look at the past month:

Hurricane Harvey: The first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2006. In the span of only four days, many areas were hit with more than 40 inches of rain. At one point peaking at 51.88 inches of rain, Harvey ultimately become the wettest hurricane ever in the mainland United States. It destroyed much of Texas and the Southeastern United States, including Houston, the fourth largest American city; and killed at least 83 confirmed people (estimates are higher). The total economic impact is estimated at anywhere between $70 and $200 billon dollars, figures larger than the entire economies of most countries.

Hurricane Irma: The strongest hurricane to strike the United States since 2005 and first to strike Florida since 2005, Irma “caused widespread and catastrophic damage throughout its long lifetime”, leading to at least 44 deaths in the Caribbean and 57 in the United States.

Hurricane Maria: At the time of this article being written, a still ongoing hurricane that hit the Caribbean almost immediately after Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria caused “total devastation” in Puerto Rico, rendering the entire island without power (note that the island was already 70% without power following Irma).

This video, created by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team, tours users around the Tasking Manager to find projects with which they can help.

Chiapas Earthquake: An 8.1-magnitude earthquake, the strongest in Mexico since 1787 (to put that in perspective, Mexico was still New Spain at that point). The quake caused widespread devastation in Chiapas, Oaxaca and beyond.

Puebla Earthquake: Only one week after the Chiapas Earthquake, the 2017 “Central Mexico Earthquake” was a 7.1-magnitude event that ravaged Mexico City and the surrounding states of Puebla and Morelos. Happening only three days ago, estimates are only now coming out as to death totals but the lowest numbers are 270 fatalities and over 1800 injured.

All of that, and that’s only natural disasters and only one region of the world. At the same time there are countless civil conflicts, wars, refugee migrations and more taking place around the world. What do all of these areas have in common? They involve change to the landscape. When the landscape changes, those changes need to be reflected in maps so that they can be used to make informed decisions as to how organizations should go about addressing the conflicts at hand. No one government, not even the United States, has the ability to map an area so quickly and thoroughly as would a grouping of thousands of like-minded volunteers working online. This is the key to Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. If you’d like to learn more about it, please read our detailed September 2016 article on the history and mission of HOT-OSM.

This article today, however, is less an overview as our typical articles would be, and more a plea and call to action to help in any way you can. How can you help you might ask? Aside from donations, the most valuable contribution you can make is helping to trace features such as roads, fallen buildings and telephone poles that are often displaced (if not destroyed). Tracing these features helps update maps and thus speed up recovery efforts. These disasters will take months if not years to recover from, and any help, however small, makes a difference. The best part? Anyone, regardless of mapping ability or lack thereof is able to make meaningful contributions. Information and beginner tutorials are available at

Thank you!

Fletcher Berryman
Cloud Tamer
(970) 710-0909

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