OpenStreetMap for disaster risk management

By Nate Smith on Jun 30 2014

The 2014 Understanding Risk Forum kicks off today in London. One thing that I'll discuss while I'm here is using open data to make better decisions, specifically looking at how we are using OpenStreetMap (OSM). Disaster preparedness begins with access to information about population and infrastructure. This starts with open data and the ability to use timely and relevant data for disaster risk assessments and preparedness activities.

OpenStreetMap and disasters

OSM is an open, freely available global dataset of geographic and infrastructure data. We use OSM heavily in our work as do other disaster response organizations, ranging from the World Bank to university research centers and NGOs. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team's (HOT) is perhaps the most visible example of using OSM to provide timely data to disaster response efforts. The World Bank's InaSAFE hazard modeling tool uses infrastructure data mapped in OpenStreetMap to run preparedness analysis and impact modeling. The WorldPop project, a high-resolution human population distribution mapping project, uses OSM to increase accuracy of their population distribution data around the world. Using road and building data from OSM, WorldPop can produce higher resolution density mapping datasets for public use.

These groups all use OSM because it is the best data available. And through their efforts working with with OSM they continue to improve it. From hazard and exposure mapping, risk modeling and impact analysis, education and training, to disaster preparedness, open data sets are vital to understanding risk.

world pop before and after Precision and accuracy of population distribution models before and after using OSM. Photo: WorldPop

I'll also be discussing satellites, drones, data visualization and other essential tools for understanding risk. OpenStreetMap is a part of the critical infrastructure behind all these efforts. Find me on Twitter at @nas_smith if to meet up and chat!

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