[Talk-us] San Louis Obispo CA area - Chimney Wildfire - OSM US Tasking Manager Project

Blake Girardot bgirardot at gmail.com
Thu Aug 18 12:22:22 UTC 2016

Hi Mike,

HOT has been asked 2 times in the past that I know of to help with US
based incidents that I know of.

One was another CA fire and we were contacted by a local responder who
was already used to using OSM data, knew of its quality and potential
limitations and asked us to fill in/update/review data in the rugged
terrain AoI he was working in fire fighting.

We also did a FEMA related project (Russ Deffner knows more about that
one I think)

And recently we did a project to update the island of American Somoa
for the Red Cross.

I have also personally mapped to support a local rural volunteer fire
department that had no object map of their area of responsibility,
(but I have no idea how or if they used the data I generated for them,
I need to follow up and see if they are using the data, that was a few
years ago when I first got heavy in to OSM). I suspect there are many
many rural agencies just like that of all sorts that would benefit
from OSM data and process if they only knew about them and had someone
to help them benefit from open geo data and tools.

In the developing world/global south context it is easy to recognize
the value of OSM because it is often the most complete dataset
available and is "easy" to get a basemap completed over a very large
AoI, there typically are just very few other options immediately
available or open enough to make use of the raw geo data.

In the more developed countries like the US (and others) there is a
built in bias for "official" data for a number of reasons which
Jonathan Witcoski pointed out in the osm us slack channel from his
experiences. Mainly "cover your butt" reasons. As he also pointed out,
that thinking applies even if those official sources are of less
quality and/or less accessible than the dataset in OSM

But that is changing in my experience. More and more folks who work at
these agencies are seeing the value OSM brings in having so much geo
data all in one place and easily maintained and exported for GIS
systems and personal devices. And typically the osm data is well
curated as well as incorporating and improving the official data.

That is one of the main reasons I was so happy to work with Jon on
wildfire related support. I am quite convinced that OSM data and the
OSM platform are uniquely useful and this "grass roots", bottom up,
trend of agencies of all types using OSM data and workflows will
continue. I hate to say it, but I think "build it and they will come"
applies here as I am already seeing it happen in a limited way.

One place you might look for another pretty amazing example of OSM
data in official use is on the OSM Canada-talk list. StatCan, a huge
government agency in a well developed nation, is making a major effort
to incorporate OSM data, processes and community into their "official"
data and workflows. (I have not followed the thread, I hope it is
still as on track as it was when we initially spoke to them a few
months back :)

I would also just point out, the wildfire support in CA is an OSM-US
community member driven effort (3 of us at last count, maybe it grew
some this week, I hope), not a HOT effort. It makes use of OSM-US's
installation of HOT's OSM Tasking Manager tool and some of us
OSM-US'ers are also HOT community members and so bring a lot of
enthusiasm for, and first hand knowledge of, OSM's value in crisis
response. But so far it is up to us as the OSM-US community to make it
as successful as it can be.

Thank you again to everyone who has pitched in on these wildfire
projects, it is a slow process but the awareness and respect for OSM's
data, workflows and community continues to grow and projects like
these I think really contribute to that goal in addition to their
primary purpose: the good they potentially/hopefully do for people
affected by these wildfires.


On Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 3:35 AM, Mike Thompson <miketho16 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Blake,
> It is great to see OSM being used in disaster response within the US.
> 1) Will there be more such tasks, either associated with this fire, or with
> other events?
> 2) Are there other cases where OSM has been used like this in the US? I am
> scheduled to give a talk about OSM to the Wyoming GIS Conference and it
> would be great to cite some additional such examples.
> Mike
> On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 11:41 AM, OSM Volunteer stevea
> <steveaOSM at softworkers.com> wrote:
>> Thank you for setting this up, Blake.  I've never done a HOT task before,
>> and since this is my backyard, I dove right in.  And it was FUN!  (BTW, it
>> is San Luis Obispo).
>> A couple/three years ago I made contact with Joe Larson, a SLO-county
>> based firefighter and OSM volunteer who used County GIS data to add all
>> buildings (and most if not all associated address data) to SLO.  He and his
>> team also completed TIGER updating of roads.  (These are still not perfect,
>> as many roads are tagged tiger:reviewed=yes, which is superfluous and can be
>> deleted).  Way to go!
>> But as is true of any fire:  it's great to be prepared!  (Good maps with
>> excellent road and building data).  Smart to add swimming pools, too.  In
>> the half-dozen or so tasks I did, I also added some small (sub-1-acre)
>> natural=water "ponds" which were usually at the confluence of two small
>> streams.  With the drought, I'm not sure they are there, though.  The
>> imagery layer used here is excellent, especially at very high zooms.
>> Good work, everybody, now all we need to do is finish validation.
>> SteveA
>> California
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