Facebook launches Disaster Maps to improve crisis response

Facebook has announced that it is working with UNICEF, the Red Cross and others to pilot a new ‘disaster maps’ initiative to help crisis response.

Capetonians recently had the benefit of Facebook’s Safety Check feature in the wake of the #CapeStorm, and now the social media company has announced its work on a new project to aid crisis response in emergency situations dubbed ‘Disaster Maps’.
Developed in conjunction with UNICEF, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the World Food Programme, Disaster Maps use aggregated Facebook data to provide metrics and information to improve crisis response and relief efforts.
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Disaster Maps are comprised of three different kinds of maps; location-density maps show where people were located before, during, and after a crisis. Movement apps show movement over a period of hours, and Safety Check maps show where users check in safely in the wake of a disaster.
These three metrics hope to aid emergency and crisis response organisations in best directing their efforts. Facebook has clarified that it hopes to roll out Disaster Maps for use by local governments and other organizations in the future, and offered that “all applications will be reviewed carefully by people at Facebook, including those with local expertise.”

While the use of location data and metrics gleaned from users personal accounts might raise an eyebrow in privacy circles, the feature may yet prove to be of untold benefit for relief organizations in mapping and planning efforts in the wake of tragedy.
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What are your thoughts? Would you like to see Facebook leverage the functionality behind Disaster Maps more frequently to help crisis response? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA