OpenStreetMap has a humanitarian chapter called the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, or HOT. HOT was formed with a view to provide high-quality maps to disaster stricken areas around the world. Whenever disasters such as storms, earthquakes, floods and famine strike, the first thing that any rescue and evacuation team needs is the lay of the land. This lay of the land can be obtained via maps and satellite images. While developed countries do have in their possession a series of detailed maps of their land, it is the more backward countries and regions that suffer the most. Without detailed maps and images, it is difficult for rescue teams to think of a strategy to get to the affected areas, because they have no idea what regions have been affected and what not. Knowing exactly the extent of the affected land and the possible routes by which the victims can be rescued can help save a lot of lives.
HOT members are placed all around the world, in disaster-stricken areas and are actively involved in producing high-quality, accurate maps of the affected regions. These maps are available free of cost to the rescue and evacuation teams. HOT members work physically at the site of the disaster-prone regions to map the region, creating highly detailed and reliable datasets.
One of the more famous examples where OSM data was used for disaster management was during the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Immediately after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, the OSM community began tracing the roads in the affected area based on available satellite images. After the first satellite imagery was available in 48 hours, over 600 people edited and added information to the map over the month.
A video was produced which shows the data added over the month the earthquake struck.
It is heartening and encouraging to see that people are pouring immense efforts to make the world a better mapped place.
- Humanitarian Technology and the Japan Earthquake (irevolution.net)