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Where You (and Anyone Else) Can Help FEMA with Hurricane Sandy Recovery
© Image: Screenshot by Patrick Meier
editorial

Where You (and Anyone Else) Can Help FEMA with Hurricane Sandy Recovery

Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with permission from the author, Patrick Meier. It was originally published at iRevolution.net. Follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickmeier.

My colleague Schuyler Erle from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap has launched a very interesting effort in response to Hurricane Sandy. He shared the info below via CrisisMappers, which I’m turning into this blog post to help him recruit more volunteers.

Schuyler and team just got their hands on the Civil Air Patrol’s (CAP) super high resolution aerial imagery of the disaster affected areas. They’ve imported this imagery into their Micro-Tasking Server MapMill created by Jeff Warren and are now asking volunteers to help tag the images in terms of the damage depicted in each photo. “The 531 images on the site were taken from the air by CAP over New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts on 31 Oct 2012.”

To access this platform, simply click here: http://sandy.hotosm.org. If that link doesn’t work, please try sandy.locative.us.

“For each photo shown, please select ‘ok’ if no building or infrastructure damage is evident; please select ‘not ok’ if some damage or flooding is evident; and please select ‘bad’ if buildings etc. seem to be significantly damaged or underwater. Our *hope* is that the aggregation of the ok/not ok/bad ratings can be used to help guide FEMA resource deployment, or so was indicated might be the case during RELIEF at Camp Roberts this summer.”

A disaster response professional working in the affected areas for FEMA replied (via CrisisMappers) to Schuyler’s efforts to confirm that:

“[G]overnment agencies are working on exploiting satellite imagery for damage assessments and flood extents. The best way that you can help is to help categorize photos using the tool Schuyler provides [...]. CAP imagery is critical to our decision making as they are able to work around some of the limitations with satellite imagery so that we can get an area of where the worst damage is. Due to the size of this event there is an overwhelming amount of imagery coming in, your assistance will be greatly appreciated and truly aid in response efforts. Thank you all for your willingness to help.”

Schuyler notes that volunteers can click on the Grid link from the home page of the Micro-Tasking platform to “zoom in to the coastlines of Massachusetts or New Jersey” and see “judgements about building damages beginning to aggregate in US National Grid cells, which is what FEMA use operationally. Again, the idea and intention is that, as volunteers judge the level of damage evident in each photo, the heat map will change color and indicate at a glance where the worst damage has occurred.” See above screenshot.

Even if you just spend 5 or 10 minutes tagging the imagery, this will still go a long way to supporting FEMA’s response efforts. You can also help by spreading the word and recruiting others to your cause. Thank you!

Update (Nov 2): 5,739 aerial images tagged by over 3,000 volunteers. Please keep up the outstanding work!

- Patrick is an internationally recognized thought leader on the application of new technologies for crisis early warning, humanitarian response, human rights and civil resistance. He currently serves as Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi and previously co-directed Harvard's Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. He also consults extensively for international organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Patrick holds a PhD from The Fletcher School, a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from Stanford and an MA from Columbia University. He was born & raised in Africa.

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