How to help map Haiti in the wake of Matthew

[Editor’s note: The headline has been updated to include all organizations that request mapping services.]

When a major disaster hits, roads wash out, buildings crumble, and in some cases, entire villages are destroyed. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team asks volunteers to get online and help document those geographic changes to help aid workers and governments deliver assistance where it is needed most.

Basically they ask volunteers to digitally mark where the buildings were before so that they know where to go to find people if those buildings are no longer there. You don’t need to be in Haiti to map the buildings — you can do it remotely from anywhere following the tutorials on the website. Or check out this video here.

In Haiti, the Red Cross has asked volunteers to help map the Grand Anse coast, the Nippes Road Network, Jacmel, and Haiti Sud and Grand’Anse Road Network. They might add more maps as time goes on.

Jacamel is one of the areas that needs mapping. It's colored in at the bottom.
Jacamel is one of the areas that needs mapping. It’s colored in at the bottom.

Maptime Miami and Code for Miami hosted a tutorial on Monday night at CIC Miami. Here’s their step-by-step explainer.

  1. Log onto Open Street Map and create an account.

  2. Go to the task manager here and you should be logged in (if not just click log in)

    See in the upper right corner it's not done yet.

  3. Click on a map that still doesn’t have 100% completion.

  4. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

    Incomplete map

  5. Click on a box that is empty — the yellow ones are done so don’t click those. The green ones mean it’s been double-checked.

  6. Click on the area button up top.


  7. Find a building and trace the four corners. Click on the original point to get your mouse unselected.

  8. Mark it as a building from the dropdown menu on the left and hit save.


  9. Keep going until you finish your box.

  10. Then do another one 🙂