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Mapping volunteers helping on response

Pierre Béland | Coordination team for Yolanda / Haiyan Typhoon | Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team | Jan. 2014 

As Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, the OpenStreetMap community was already adding new details to the map to help first responders. Online maps with humanitarian style were updated to the minute. They helped located vital infrastructures and damaged buildings. Coordinating with OCHA and the Red Cross, The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) acted as a bridge between the OpenStreetMap Community and traditional Humanitarian Responders. More then 1,500 voluntary contributors from 82 countries contributed remotely from their home or office computer through internet. The reactivity of this community and his flexibility, adapting the tools and services for this crisis greatly helped the humanitarian responders in a very complex situation with remote areas often without communications and electricity.

Ten days after the disaster, the progress of the volunteers tracing satellite imagery of the affected areas was amazing. With communication problems, printed maps were important and IOM Staff delivered poster size OSM maps to the DSWD Operations Center in Tacloban Airport. This base map data is essential to rescue operations and helped Red Cross disaster workers deliver vital supplies.

The OSM map is also part of various monitoring maps for this crisis. The Red Cross Haiyan Dashboard online map and various Crisis Maps for Haiyan Typhoon crisis show data over the OSM Humanitarian Map Style. These online maps are available to all responders connected through internet.


The OSM humanitarian style in the right panel highlights damaged buildings in Tacloban. Impassable road are also identified. The humanitarian responders can interact with the Openstreetmap community in various ways, either expressing specific needs or contributing to update the map to identify vital infrastructures or road blocks. Like for Wikipedia, anyone can create his own OSM acccount and contribute. The simplest way for the teams working in the disaster region is to open an OSM account and add a Note to the OSM map to identify various infrastructures. Then, OSM contributors will take care to update the map for this feature. For example, it is possible to identify a building (ie, Type of building= school, hospital, medical service, etc and also provide the Name this feature).

Other OpenStreetMap products for Yolanda / Haiyan Typhoon

Meanwhile various tools and services are updated daily and are accessible free to all. They allow data extracts for GIS specialists, Routable Garmin GPS data, OSMAND for Android, and other device-compatible downloads. With an internet connection regular syncing is possible with open access to the community contributed data as it comes in. Of course, it is also possible to print maps on paper. It is also easy to download Routable data on a GPS or OSMAND map on an Android device.

More details on the OSM wiki page for the Yolanda / Haiyan Typhoon.


Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
Original Publication Date: 
08 Jan 2014
Document type: 
Press Release
Typhoon Haiyan - Nov 2013