Humanitarian OSM Tags

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List of Current HOT Tags

An up-to-date list of tags for HOT is located at Humanitarian OSM Tags/HDM preset.

The Humanitarian Data Model

OpenStreetMap historically has been geared for mapping in developed countries in non-emergency situations. During the HOT's first participation in a humanitarian crisis, the Haitian Earthquake of 2010 the OSM tagging in place at the time sufficed. However, it was less useful to organizations accustomed to working in traditional GIS modes. Field responders need to know easily how OSM tags relate to their existing data models and how to include new types of things in OSM, features that may be relevant only in disaster response, recovery, or development contexts.

The Humanitarian Data Model (HDM) seeks to reconcile schemas from many humanitarian response agencies, all of which are based on field requirements. When possible, this model matches humanitarian attributes to existing map features in OpenStreetMap.

With the expectation of new functionality in the HOT Export tools that can transform tag values for export files the tagging scheme has been pushed to line up completely with OSM standards. The newest presets can be seen in the "Humanitarian Data Model presets" section.

Humanitarian Data Model presets

The tags can be found on github:

Best practices for OSM tagging in HOT

  • Most importantly follow the tagging guidelines listed in the Task Manager located under the "Instructions" section. As a result of needs from OSM users on the ground and OSM's decentralized nature the meaning and usage of a particular tag may change.
  • Learn the tagging scheme that is appropriate to the task. Do not rely heavily on tagging schemes used in your local towns. For example, a dirt highway that you would tag in your hometown as a highway=path may not necessarily be the most appropriate tag in other places. This dirt highway may be the most traveled within a small town. Use other contextual clues (width of highway, whether or other buildings are near it, whether it is the only road to a small village, etc.) and the general description on the tag's wiki page.
  • Check the geographic area's OSM wiki page (if they have one) for guidelines of how local mappers and stakeholders tag features.
  • Use consistent tagging. For example, if you see that other squares in the tasks are using highway=path, use highway=path instead of highway=footway provided that these tags have been entered by experienced mappers.


The following links include some of the "hot-button" discussion points:

Humanitarian OSM Tags/operational status
Humanitarian OSM Tags/practicability
Humanitarian OSM Tags/source:date
  • How to tag WASH features
Humanitarian OSM Tags/WASH

Requirements from the Field

This section brings input from humanitarian responders into the Humanitarian Data Model. Thus far we have been engaging with PAHO/HFacs on Health Facilities, MINUSTAH roads data and UNSDI-t from the Logistic Cluster.

We need to flesh out these details in a new subpage with the available materials, and level of approval/review/use.

Usage and Suggestions from OSM

This subpage (Humanitarian OSM Tags/Humanitarian Data Background) includes input from the OpenStreetMap community that has been integrated into the Humanitarian Data Model. Our intentions are to continually review OSM community activity and discussion then align, adjust, and/or extend the Humanitarian Data Model accordingly. At this stage it covers tags currently in use and proposals for new tags.

There is a related HOT-sponsored symbology development project: Humanitarian OSM Tags: Indonesia 2011.

List of preset files for humanitarian features


The most current Humanitarian Data Model presets are here: They are hosted in JOSM as "HDM Data Model for HOT field surveys"


Humanitarian OSM Tags/Humanitarian Data Model OLD