image of Nepal crisis map

Crisismapping: Building a Disaster Picture, Coordinating Aid

Facebook statistics show that their average user has 350 contacts.   Recovery for the earthquake that struck Nepal will take some time and social media is helping however there are some key tips that will help improve the flow of information.  On May 11, 2015 Nepal Photo Project posted an image that was a plea for help. The originator of this message was trying to find help for Ward no. 4’s villagers through social media. It receives over 1,000 shares, from people who are trying to help by spreading the word.  If the average user has 350 followers, this means this one message is delivered to approximately 350,000 Facebook users.  But over a week before, this case had already been posted on, a crisis-mapping database built by online volunteers and managed by Kathmandu Living Labs. On May 7, humanitarian group Helping Hands is notified, and by May 11, Ward no. 4 has already received much-needed food and shelter.

Ward no. 4 was assisted by a coordinated crisis mapping effort. In crisis mapping, people submit their info on disaster hotspots to an online report database. These reports show aid agencies on the ground where the affected area is, and what sort of relief the people need (food/water/shelter, medical aid, etc.)  Dedicated volunteers filter that information for accuracy. Taken together, these reports form a map of the disaster zone, showing aid agencies where the greatest needs are concentrated, and what locations need the most help. habanner_1432177949s already received 1,800 reports from various Nepal earthquake hotspots. Many isolated villages in cut-off Nepali districts needed (and still need) urgent food/water/shelter/sanitation relief. Often, a plaintive call for help on Quakemap is their only chance of being found by aid agencies. Humanity Road’s volunteers have helped organize and check Quakemap reports; we are proud to be their partners in coordinating Nepal’s relief online. The coordination provided by Quakemap has already helped aid workers on the ground find and help communities like Ward no. 4.

If you’ve got info about devastated communities in Nepal, or about another disaster in the future, you don’t need to pass it down the social media chain and hope it eventually gets to somebody who can help. Take a few minutes of your time and post it on Quakemap. With just an Internet connection, you can help build the disaster picture, showing relief groups who and where to help.  Below is a video about their work. And also an overview of the process flow for the Kathmandu Living Labs Quake map


Sharing in social media may go a long way toward making a situation known but is it really helping the situation on the ground?   When disaster strikes sharing someone’s plight in Facebook or Twitter may not be the fastest answer or the best approach for those impacted.  Do you want to help?  Here are fast tips:

Five Fast Good Citizen Journalist Tips

1.  Be a good citizen journalist by researching the story before you share it.  Check to see if the item already exists in QuakeMap.   If you are posting and asking for help, make sure you leave a working call back number.   Be alert to the fact that by sharing information in social media, you have become an active participant – old information and misinformation causes more work for humanitarian responders.

2.  Seeing many images of post disaster events can trigger post traumatic stress events – what effect are you having on friends and family who may suffer this condition?  Is the message you are sharing meant for them too?  Consider your audience before sharing, take it to the appropriate spaces, aid agencies and help lines.

3.  If you wish to take an active role in helping after disaster, train for it.  There are many organizations who accept digital volunteers.  Read more about our work with Kathmandu Living labs and how to volunteer at

4.  Never rely solely on social media for rescue.  In the USA dial 911 or the short code for your country for help.  Keep other numbers written down in your wallet in case you lose your phone, power or become separated..

5.  Check out the amazing work Quakemap and Kathmandu Living Labs  is doing to help Nepal heal and leave a note of appreciation for the hard working volunteers behind he scenes.  You can learn more about them here

Remember, stay safe out there and be good citizen journalists.


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