Just over one year ago, Facebook launched its Disaster Maps product to help communities recover and rebuild from natural disasters. Since that time, a variety of humanitarian organizations have used our suite of data tools to respond to natural disasters around the world.
In the last year, the Red Cross used Disaster Maps to restore internet connectivity to parts of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Direct Relief distributed 400,000 respiratory masks during the Southern California Wildfires using insights from the Disaster Maps tool, and the World Food Programme recently used the data to restore connectivity to neighborhoods in the east of Dominica.
Over the last year, we have also worked with our partners to continue to improve our Disaster Maps offerings for partners. We are excited to share that we have developed three new maps that help partners understand patterns of CellularNetwork Coverage, Battery Charging and PopulationDisplacement. This post presents these new Disaster Maps, with descriptions of the data and methods used to create the maps, alongside examples with interpretations from past disasters.
Cellular coverage is critical during times of crisis, but hurricanes and tornadoes can damage cell towers and disrupt critical connectivity infrastructure. Affected populations need to be able to communicate with friends and family, and response organizations need to be able to communicate with affected populations and staff. Our new Cellular Network Coverage maps provide information on where cell coverage is available for populations affected by natural disasters.
Coverage Maps in Practice: Volcanic Eruption in Guatemala
The figure below is pulled from Facebook’s Global Coverage Map, which shows the 2G network coverage in Alotenango, Guatemala on April 22, 2018 before the volcanic eruption . From this map, we see that under normal circumstances, there is network coverage in the area.
The visualization below shows 2G network coverage on June 10, 2018, four days after the volcanic eruption. Based on the sharp increases in red and orange areas, as well as complete blank spots on the map, we can see a sharp drop in network use in the areas surrounding the site of the eruption.
The Cellular Network Coverage maps were first tested in 2014 during the Ebola Crisis in East Africa to help NetHope connect Emergency Treatment Units to the internet and then used by NetHope to prioritize efforts for re-establishing internet connectivity for communities in Puerto Rico. The UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster also used the data to understand the state of internet connectivity in other Caribbean Islands after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Access to electricity enables critical activities like heating or cooling one’s home, lighting a room, or charging a cell phone. When power infrastructure is down, response organizations need to know where people are without power. Facebook is able to produce maps that estimate power availability by measuring the number of phones connecting to or disconnecting from power. If the volume of phones charging after a disaster drops significantly compared to normal levels, we can assert that power may not be available in that area.
Battery Charging Map in Practice: Storms in Ranchi, India
The figure below shows changes in number of phones connecting to power, expressed as the percentage of the baseline average, in areas near Ranchi, India on May 28, 2018, which suffered from power outages after lightning and thunder storms. While power availability was not affected in the city center of Ranchi where the area is still pale blue, there was a sharp decrease in the number of phones connecting to power in areas outside the city, highlighted in red.
In 2016, 24.2 million people were newly displaced from their homes by disasters . In order to provide resources and support to individuals who have been displaced, humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross need to know where people have migrated. To surface these insights, we developed a new Displacement Map.
Displacement Map in Practice: Wildfires in Northern California
In October 2017, devastating wildfires destroyed an estimated 8,900 structures in the Napa Valley region, forcing 100,000 people to evacuate, many of whom remained displaced from their homes well after the fires were extinguished . The figure below shows the net difference in population during this time, reporting the total change in the number of people in each city in the week of December 4, 2017, approximately two months after the fires started, compared to the week before the fires started .
The dots in purple, blue, and green show cities with a decrease in people, while the orange and red dots show cities with an increase in population. From this visualization, we can see that nearly all of the cities in the Napa Region show some decrease in population after the fires, including Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Napa, and Vallejo. We can also see the cities where displaced people went in large numbers, including major cities outside the danger zone, such as San Francisco and San Jose.
Our Disaster Maps program seeks to help NGOs and communities more effectively prepare and respond to natural disasters. With these new maps, our partners can get up-to-date information on whether people have access to cellular coverage and power, and whether they have been displaced from their homes. Building on our partnerships with humanitarian organizations around the world, we hope that when disasters do strike, these tools continue to help communities recover and rebuild.