Tech Talk: Using online mapping tools to improve emergency response

There are many possibilities provided by online mapping tools in advancing emergency response. An online map can allow community members to upload geo-tagged information to alert other community members or emergency officials to a problem or situation like roadblocks, flooding, or fires.

The City of Calgary has developed an online mapping tool to pull data (reports of problems or situations) from social media networks. The information is then posted on the Canadian Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS) which is currently being used by municipal, provincial, and federal agencies to share critical information during emergencies.

The goal is to be able to develop an open source mapping tool that allows users to crowdsource crisis information on mobile devices. One of the biggest challenges to this type of mapping is the need to verify messages from the general public. One solution to this is having emergency officials validate the information before it is uploaded to the map.

This type of situational awareness during an emergency can be used to alert emergency officials to emerging issues in order to speed up responses and provide communities access to important information in real time.

The Canadian Red Cross is currently exploring the use of social media and technology in disaster response. To learn more visit here.

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