HOT activation

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This page was used by the HOT contributors to propose contents for the Activation protocol.

An Activation Protocol has replaced most of the original content of this wiki-page. There are bits remaining below that were not incorporated into the first version of the Activation Protocol, such as imagery coordination as it will likely become a document of its own, or part of another.

HOT (the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team) will use the concept of an "Activation", occurring at a particular point in time, as a declaration to other aid organisations that we have useful map data or that we are "active" and actively pursuing creation of map data in response to a crisis.

It may also serve as a rallying cry within the OpenStreetMap community, signifying an important crisis which is deserving of the attention of volunteers. The idea of this is to focus attention, recognising that we cannot expect everyone to respond to every disaster or perceived disaster. Many mappers and other types of volunteers may like to wait for an activation signal, so that their efforts are focussed in this way. However HOT may declare an activation in some circumstances despite there being little mapping work for volunteers to work on. e.g. if we already have good coverage of the area.

Previous work on the subject should be reviewed and incorporated into this page.

Current work

HOT has formed the Activation working group; the group is tasked with developing and/or proposing procedures, protocols, positions, and/or other recommendations for management of HOT activations.

HOT has begun drafting an Activation Protocol

HOT/OSM Activation Protocol Content Suggestions

Activation Respondents

Activations may vary in extent, duration and complexity. Every crisis is particular and needs adaptation from the HOT community. The Activation Respondents are senior members with experience from previous activations or field deployment. They evaluate the Activation requests and the type of coordination necessary. They also define the workflow of this activation. Coordination and negociation for imagery with other partners may also necessitate to name a coordinator to facilitate the functioning of this activation.

Notification of a crisis/triggers

The occurring of a crisis is notified from :

  • Media (mainstream & specialized)
  • HOT volunteers notifying and contacting via HOT comms channels (mailing list being the main one)
  • UN system
  • other official channels like GDAC, USGS, NOAA
  • Digital Humanitarian Network activation or request from DHN partners like StanBy Task Force & others


  • Refine activation triggers
  • Define communication protocols for notification

Humanitarian mapping projects/Preparation

A "humanitarian mapping project" will be initiated in response to a disaster or a humanitarian crisis. This will be followed by the declaration of a HOT activation if appropriate.

OpenStreetMap already has the concept of a "mapping project". In the wider OSM arena these are normally permanent projects which relate to a particular city or place. They are coordinated on a "city" page on the wiki, to be found by navigating down the hierarchy of links from the "List of territory based projects" page. A wiki page offers a flexible space for coordination of mapping communities. Importantly it is also flexible in the extent to which the communities decide that they require coordination. Coordination of mapping projects for disaster response can happen in a similar way, and benefit from similar flexibility. A mapping project exists as a wiki page initiated by anyone in the community who wishes to do so. Usually this would be in response to media coverage, but as a community we should also seek to follow more effective and impartial "early warning" channels.

Start a wiki page

The wiki page can start small, but even at the beginning it should:

  • be linked off the relevant country page(s) and city page(s) perhaps with a very prominent orange "breaking news" link
  • describe the disaster briefly. This should be a few sentences. Not pasting in lots of news details which are always better found elsewhere. Some links to wikipedia (which is usually pretty good at aggregating news) and other news sources, but again don't go overboard with links
  • link to the location!

Template:Activation is a big template which might be useful, however all of this boilerplate information dumped on a wiki page which may not turn out to be an important activation (we don't know when we're first creating it!) is not necessarily the most useful thing. People in the community will get used to seeing this and they will know that it holds no new genuinely useful information

Early information and assessment

From this beginning we would then aim to develop the wiki page

  • identify relevant areas of aerial imagery coverage
  • identify areas where mapping contributions can take place
  • identify other relevant information (ie. locality names, administrative boundaries, public infrastructures, etc.)
  • give clear instructions to new mappers, linking resources where possible to avoid duplication (TODO templates for this)
  • give clear instructions to data users, linking resources where possible to avoid duplication (TODO templates for this)

In this way a "humanitarian mapping project" will be initiated and developed by the community, without the need for declarations or "permission" from HOT members or anyone. However when seeking to promote a project to activation status, HOT members should pro-actively ensure that project is clearly set up with the above categories of information, as a precursor to activation.

HOT activation

HOT activation criteria: life, magnitude & severity, hum system actions, partners, local request from OSM on the ground, Local partner on the ground, government


  • Board & core hotties discussion as well as discussion on HOT mailing list
  • Start identification of HOT coordinators from roster
  • Refine the Crisis wikipage

Activation Steps

1. Notification

2. Response qualification is completed

3. The Activation Respondents determine if official activation is appropriate

  • Yes, we will Activate - Coordinate and support contributors via the #hot irc, Ensure Wiki Page setup - Set up Tasking Server - Formal request for Imagery - Notify community of the Activation
  • No, we won't Activate, however we will forward on your request to the community list (if it didn't come from there)

4. The coordinator assures the communication with the partners, identifies support team members for various specialized tasks (ie. imagery server, Data Imports and Exports, specific tasks required by the humanitarians on the ground, spatial analysis etc), publish updates on the HOT blog and communicate with the HOT contributors throug the HOT discussion list and the #hot irc.

5. Activation is announced through channels

6. Response qualification is re-evaluated to see if it should continue

7. The Core Activation Team determines if the response should continue

8. etc

Please see Humanitarian OSM Team/Working groups/Activation/Template for a more formal discussion of this topic.

Internal notification to HOT and OSM communities


  • ad hoc email to hot mailing list + other OSM lists + blog post with coordination channels like IRC
  • Continue/Complete identification of HOT coordinators

External notification to partners

External notification to partners about activation including UNOCHA Community of Interest-COI, Crisismappers, etc.


  • standard email to HOT partners + link of the activation blog post


  • List partners to be notified

Data scramble and situational awareness

This is also at the onset of disaster or immediately prior to it.

HOT is looking at ensuring access to the best imagery and vector resources within the Data Scramble COI & its partners:

  • vector through COI & other partners (licensing issues included)
  • imagery through COI (Charter, Safer) & partners (Stand Alone) - with Bing, Spot/Atrium,

Charter, Safer, Next View, US State Department

Situational awareness is to make OSM relevant to the response. We look primarily at Areas Of Interest (AOIs) and the nature of the needs (transportation, waterways, buildings, public services such as health services and schools, water points, camps, road blocks, damages, imports, other?)


  • Participate in data outreach group communication over emails & skype chats
  • Send required bilateral emails (imagery)
  • Post/email on OSM data outreach tasks on bilateral and/or hot mailing-list and “data outreach tasks” section of the hot crisis wiki page
  • Report on progresses data outreach tasks from COI
  • Keep wiki page up-to-date through monitoring of COD/FOD & imagery portals (UN-SPIDER)
  • Overall communication around progresses of the OSM project to HIC through COI, and list of partners


  • write template emails for imagery, including ODbL requirements
  • list resources to monitor (ideally COI and SPIDER Imagery portal)
  • write guidance documents (from COI & UN)

Imagery Coordination

We use a lightweight mechanism for coordination imagery requests to the various imagery providers that work with HOT.

Areas of Interest (AOI) are defined by activation coordinators in consultation with humanitarian partners, field teams, and HOT community; and posted as public calls on the uMap imagery coordination map set up for the activation, and as GitHub tickets.

HOT should maintain a consistent liaison for questions on imagery requests.

Once imagery is processed and provided as a Tile Map Service, we create jobs on the HOT tasking manager for OSM volunteers to digitize (


  • Someone who identifies a need creates a uMap, coloring areas for request.
  • That someone then emails the imagery-coord group saying that they've started a request and the next action is to bring each blue area (if there are more) into a ticket to track fulfilling that area.
  • That someone then creates Github tickets for each area, and then posts the ticket url into the uMap. Very few emails to the group should happen now, everything is then tracked in tickets and the map. Individual conversations then happen within the tickets.
  • Anyone can then search for scenes, list out in the ticket, and drop footprints into the uMap.
  • In the ticket, then someone who can fulfill the imagery request can update on progress procuring and processing that imagery.
  • Once the processing is done, they can update the ticket, drop any links into the map, and then close out the ticket.


Shows overall requests for an event or activation, a higher level picture.

The uMap instance contains several layers, with requested imagery AOI, options from imagery catalogs, and selected imagery in process and fulfilled. Layers are displayed with the following cartographic conventions:

  • Blue: WishList
  • Blue - Bold - Priority Wishlist
  • Gray: Available
  • Gray - Dashed - Request (from available Imagery)
  • Red - In Progress
  • Green Fulfilled

Wishlist items should have a link to an associated GitHub issue, for discussion. If a WishList request is no longer active (ie, area isn't hit by the storm), remove the polygon. Available imagery should have a link to browse url and catalog id. When imagery is fulfilled, add a link to the TMS in the description.


Use Github to do individual WishList area tracking -- updating on the pipeline for that area, who's leading out the processing, status of a request, how long something might take, any troubleshooting conversations, etc.

This will be a private repo set up by HOT (in progress).


There is additionally a small private email backchannel with imagery providers (HIU, MapBox, and others as they step up to support HOT), HOT partners like American Red Cross, and HOT representatives, who discuss options for fulfilling requests. Discussion with providers before requests are fulfilled need privacy, before they results can be shared publicly


An Imagery Request Tool was prototyped at This tool is still in development, and on GitHub at We are not currently using it, pending adaptation to above workflow.

Mapping actions

Activating, coordinating and supporting contributors

Through the Crisis wikipage, the HOT list, some communication channels like IRC (OFTC #hot or others).

Tasking Manager jobs setup

TM Jobs can be set for various purposes:

  • mapping of specific AOIs
  • mapping of larger areas eg to build the road network

It can use:

  • classic Bing imagery (pre-crisis)
  • specific, OSbL compatible imagery
  • crowdsource Image Recognition in order to identify the zones to be mapped within a large AOI

Data import

In crisis zone, these imports can be revised administrative boundaries, localities, major infrastructures, humanitarian data like Health facilities, Education facilities, Water&Sanitation objects...

Data Exports

Both through specific tools like the HOT Exports or pointing out useful OSM data ressources in the Crisis wikipage (and eventually discussing with the people who manage them to refine the dataset):

  • Offline data for GPS devices and Smartphones
  • GIS Data
  • specific humanitarian OSM rendering is under discussion