Sunday, March 13, 2011

Calling for mapping help for Japan earthquake

We're helping to provide map support for the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces deployed to help with the Japan Sendai Quake.  I'm looking for help or ideas related to challenges listed below.

Please post comments on this blog post where everyone can see them.  Thanks!

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 2 (LA County) staging for the trip to Japan

  • Cacheable data sets: We're looking for mapping data sets that can be cached and delivered on a hard drive for offline use.  For reference, the task forces will be splitting into small groups which will have spotty internet connectivity in the field.  All their laptops have at least the basic version of the Google Earth client.  We've already grabbed small areas of OpenStreetMap data, and Google has pulled in lots of data sets, but there may be some great resources we're not aware of.
  • Data delivery: We're looking for ways to deliver the data.  We were able to hand off a hard drive Friday evening before they flew out of LA but currently we don't have any pipes.  One possibility is delivering data to Google's Tokyo office and handing off from there, but we haven't worked out the logistics.  Looking for creative solutions.
  • Scripting support: The publicly accessible versions of some data sets need to be massaged into something that's usable offline.  If you have behind-the-scenes access to rsync or great map scripting chops to reformat data sets, we might be able to use your help.  An example data set is this GeoEye imagery KML prepared by the Google Crisis Response Team.  How do we cache it?
  • File sharing admin support: I set up a 1 TB Apache+WebDAV file sharing server on Amazon Web Services (EBS) to help us collect data.  I haven't configured backups yet.  I am not an admin, there are probably other things I forgot to do. If at this point you are thinking "what a moron", please get in touch :)
Other notes on the situation:

  • The latest I have on Task Force 2 is that they will be assessing damage in Ofunato tomorrow morning.
  • Ways to get in touch with me for more information:
    • Email:
    • Twitter: trey9000
    • AIM: treyontheoutside
    • Google Talk:
    • Cell: 412-657-3579


  1. I converted Chris Schmidt's "Haiti Crisis Browser" to work offline. The code is available here:

    it would be straight-forward to point to different geographic location and datasets with a little bit of javascript modification.

  2. The additional details on the project are here:

    If someone has an imagery cache (walk the KML tree to grab the imagery) and a quick OpenStreetMap scrape could be cached locally to your webdav and put onto hard drives.

    Let me know if this would be useful - andrew at