Patrick Meier: Crowdsourcing the Evaluation of Post-Sandy Building Damage Using Aerial Imagery

Patrick Meier

Crowdsourcing the Evaluation of Post-Sandy Building Damage Using Aerial Imagery

My colleague Schuyler Erle from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap  just launched a very interesting effort in response to Hurricane Sandy. He shared the info below via CrisisMappers earlier this morning, which I’m turning into this blog post to help him  recruit more volunteers.

Schuyler and team just got their hands on the Civil Air Patrol’s (CAP) super high resolution aerial imagery of the disaster affected areas. They’ve imported this imagery into their Micro-Tasking Server MapMill created by Jeff Warren and are now asking volunteers to help tag the images in terms of the damage depicted in each photo. “The 531 images on the site were taken from the air by CAP over New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts on 31 Oct 2012.”

Click on Image to Enlarge

To access this platform, simply click here:

Click on Image to Enlarge

“For each photo shown, please select ‘ok’ if no building or infrastructure damage is evident; please select ‘not ok’ if some damage or flooding is evident; and please select ‘bad’ if buildings etc. seem to be significantly damaged or underwater. Our *hope* is that the aggregation of the ok/not ok/bad ratings can be used to help guide FEMA resource deployment, or so was indicated might be the case during RELIEF at Camp Roberts this summer.”

A disaster response professional working in the affected areas for FEMA replied (via CrisisMappers) to Schuyler’s efforts to confirm that:

“[G]overnment agencies are working on exploiting satellite imagery for damage assessments and flood extents. The best way that you can help is to help categorize photos using the tool Schuyler provides […].  CAP imagery is critical to our decision making as they are able to work around some of the limitations with satellite imagery so that we can get an area of where the worst damage is. Due to the size of this event there is an overwhelming amount of imagery coming in, your assistance will be greatly appreciated and truly aid in response efforts.  Thank you all for your willingness to help.”

Schuyler notes that volunteers can click on the Grid link from the home page of the Micro-Tasking platform to “zoom in to the coastlines of Massachusetts or New Jersey” and see “judgements about building damages beginning to aggregate in US National Grid cells, which is what FEMA use operationally. Again, the idea and intention is that, as volunteers judge the level of damage evident in each photo, the heat map will change color and indicate at a glance where the worst damage has occurred.” See above screenshot.

Even if you just spend 5 or 10 minutes tagging the imagery, this will still go a long way to supporting FEMA’s response efforts. You can also help by spreading the word and recruiting others to your cause. Thank you!

Source and two additional graphics.

Phi Beta Iota:  If the USA had an Open Source Agency (OSA) as called for from 1969 onwards, and as included on pages 23 and 423 of the 9/11 Commission Report, FEMA, USGS, and NGA capabilities would be merged with crowd-provided images and crowd-source preliminary OSINT analysis (Validated OSINT, or OSINT-V, can only be done by trained and experienced all-source analysts).  CIA has refused since 1992 to be serious about MC&G and the CIA OSC is largely worthless.  We are long past due recognizing that the CIA OSC is an in-house shop that will never, ever, meet the needs of Whole of Government consumers.

See Also:

Open Source Agency Executive Access Point

2007 IJIC 20/2 The DNI’s Open Source Center

2004 Modern History of Public Intelligence and the Opposition

1995 House Appropriations Committee Surveys Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

1992 National Intelligence Council: Open Source Task Force–A Vision for the Future

1992: USMC Critique of CIA/FBIS Plan for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

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