Facebook Is Teaming Up With Relief Organizations to Create Disaster Maps Following Natural Disasters

The social network worked with the organizations to learn what types of data would be most helpful following natural disasters

Facebook announced Wednesday that it teamed up with UNICEF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the World Food Programme and other organizations to create disaster maps that use aggregated, deidentified Facebook data when natural disasters strike.

Public policy research manager Molly Jackman said in a Newsroom post that the social network worked with the organizations to learn what types of data would be most helpful following natural disasters, adding:

After a flood, fire, earthquake or other natural disaster, response organizations need accurate information, and every minute counts in saving lives. Traditional communication channels are often offline, and it can take significant time and resources to understand where help is desperately needed.

Facebook can help response organizations paint a more complete picture of where affected people are located so they can determine where resources—like food, water and medical supplies—are needed and where people are out of harm’s way.

Based on these organizations’ feedback, we are providing multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts, which will include aggregated location information people have chosen to share with Facebook.

Jackman also detailed the three types of maps included in the initiative:

Location density maps show where people are located before, during and after a disaster. We can compare this information to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster.

Movement maps illustrate patterns of movement between different neighborhoods or cities over a period of several hours. By understanding these patterns, response organizations can better predict where resources will be needed, gain insight into patterns of evacuation or predict where traffic will be most congested.

Safety Check maps are based on where our community uses Safety Check to notify their friends and family that they are safe during a disaster. We are using this deidentified data in aggregate to show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help organizations understand where people are most vulnerable and where help is needed.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg also posted about the partnership:

When there’s a flood, earthquake, fire or other natural disaster, response organizations need accurate information quickly about where people are in order to save lives. The problem is that when traditional communication channels like phone lines are down, it can take too much time to figure out where people need help.

As more people connect on Facebook, we can share insights to help organizations understand who’s in danger, who’s safe and where to send resources. This is part of creating safe communities, and we will keep doing more initiatives like this to help.

FacebookDisasterMaps from SocialTimes on Vimeo.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.