Satellite-based Emergency Mapping Guidelines

The guidelines will be reviewed and updated periodically, in order to integrate new best practices and to be responsive to evolutions in technology and end-user needs. The IWG-SEM chair has the responsibility to initiate the review, by agreement of the Working Group. 

The production and the maintenance of the guidelines are based on a joint effort by the members of the International Working Group on Satellite-based Emergency Mapping (IWG- SEM), a voluntary group of organizations involved in satellite-based emergency mapping. It was founded to improve cooperation, communication and professional standards among the global network of satellite-based emergency mapping providers. The chairperson of the group is nominated for a term of one year and is responsible for organizing the monthly telecons and bi-annual meetings. The current chair is from the Department of Geoinformatics, Z_GIS University of Salzburg / Spatial Services Ltd, Austria.

The objective of the guidelines is to help support an effective exchange and harmonization of satellite-based emergency mapping efforts leading to improved possibilities for cooperation amongst involved Emergency Mapping Organisations. This will facilitate the convergence of the mapping procedures and the thematic content across production teams in multiple response organisations, especially in the early response phases of disaster events.

The guidelines provide a framework, enabling the emergency mapping community to better cooperate during crisis times. To achieve this, the guidelines are structured as follows:

a. Define fundamental principles

b. Establish a procedure for interactions and sharing of data, analysis and mapping results

c. Organize mapping products, templates and dissemination policies

d. Anticipate problems of uncertainty in communication

e. Commit to the assurance of capacity and qualification

f. Prepare a glossary for emergency mapping vocabulary


The general guidelines are available as revised version 1. A second part of the guidelines focuses on geo-information/map production related to specific disaster types and on identifying a common document structure to be applied to the different disaster types. Presently guidelines for flood mapping are included and those for earthquake damage assessment are in preparation. 

By enabling easier exchange, merging and quality checking of individual data/information layers generated by more than one Emergency Mapping Organisation, the final goal of enhancing coordination and community effectiveness can be achieved among those willing to engage.

Access to the Guidelines Version 1.0 (2015) http://www.un-

Voigt S., Giulio-Tonolo F., Lyons J., Kucera J., Jones B., Schneiderhan T., Platzeck G., Kaku K., Kumar Hazarika M., Czaran L., Li S., Pedersen W., Kadiri J. G., Proy C., Muthike D. M., Bequignon J., Guha-Sapir D. (2016): Global trends in satellite-based emergency mapping. Science 353 (6296), 247-252. [doi: 10.1126/science.aad8728]


Policy option/guideline