Crisis Mapping the Philippines


When disaster strikes, chaos can ensue—especially on social media, where thousands of Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagrams can overwhelm human capacity to get a clear picture of who needs what. “Crisis mapper” Patrick Meier is harnessing the information-gathering power of social media to improve the speed and effectiveness of typhoon-relief efforts in the Philippines. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to learn more about crisis mapping.

Discussion Ideas

  • Read the Nat Geo News article on “crisis mapper” Patrick Meier’s current work facilitating disaster-relief in the Philippines. What is “crisis mapping”?
    • Crisis mapping involves the collection, identification, verification, and geographic display (mapping) of data from social media sources, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. According to the Nat Geo News article, “[a]id agencies can view the maps, which change in real time based on data coming in, and then use that information to help plan their relief efforts.”
    • Learn more about crisis mapping in our video “Crisis Mapping,” or through Meier’s blog.
  • Read through the Nat Geo News article or take a look at the MicroMappers website. How do Meier and other crisis mappers classify Tweets related to Typhoon Haiyan (also called Typhoon Yolanda)? How do these classifications help disaster-relief efforts? Why do you think there are not more classifications?
    • There are six major categories tagged by crisis mappers.
      • not relevant
      • request for help
      • infrastructure damage
      • population displacement
      • other
      • not English
    • Classifications allow humanitarian agencies (such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) to quickly and efficiently get the right type of aid to the affected area. The equipment required for a collapsed office building (infrastructure damage), for example, is entirely different from the type of shelter required for the destruction of a home (population displacement).
    • Crisis mappers have probably limited the number of classifications to reduce confusion and make the service as efficient as possible. Specific categories of aid, such as medical services or water, will probably be requested in the original Tweet itself.

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