Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team (VERT) Summary by Kristen Hess, Sahar Derakhshan, and Ezra Jampole

Sahar Derakhshan, Kristen Hess, and Ezra Jampole will be co-curating the housing topic of EERI’s Clearinghouse on the Muisne, Ecuador earthquake. Sahar is an Assistant Specialist at PEER with backgrounds in Public Policy and Structural engineering; Kristen is a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder studying sustainable infrastructure materials;  Ezra is a PhD student at Stanford University studying methods to reduce damage to light frame housing during earthquakes.

After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Ecuador along the Northern Coast, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) contacted volunteers to populate maps with information about the post-earthquake landscape in affected areas [TheNewYorker]. HOT aims to connect the on-the-ground network in Ecuador with the OpenStreetMap servers, editors, and geodata tools [ accessed 4/21/2016].

The sources of information include satellite images from state and private entities, government documentation of the location of hospitals, schools, and other public infrastructure, and photos and testimony from local residents and teams on the ground. The information is compiled in one online location and volunteers fill in the grids of the maps layering each piece of intel to create an updated composite image that is reviewed by experienced mappers (shown in Figure 1). As an example of the power of this tool, an estimated 2000 volunteers quadrupled the amount of mapped terrain in affected areas after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. It is anticipated that the pre-earthquake map of affected areas in Ecuador will be done within two weeks with the post-earthquake map well underway [TheNewYorker]. New volunteers can be trained from online tutorials (please refer to the links at the end of this post). To encourage volunteer participation, Heidelburg Univeristy is organizing a mapping event (mapathon) in an auditorium [GISuser].

This user-based mapping tool can be used by first responders to access affected communities and areas more quickly. Conversely, users on-the-ground can provide updated information to the mapping team. The mapping tool can help avoid damaged roads and bridges to reach places in need of aid or marked for reconnaissance. It can also provide an understanding of the extent of the earthquake damage from roads to homes.


                                                                                     Equador Hot Map                                                                                                            
  Figure 1. The current status of a mapping task in the city of Manta organized by HOT. [ accessed 4/21/2016]  

To learn how to map, refer to:

To help map, refer to the task manager organized by HOT:

To get more information including how to download maps, refer to:

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