How four TomTom’ers used maps to provide aid after the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria
The news of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria shocked everyone. It devastated both families and cities. Due to its scale, it’s still taking huge efforts from both countries to recover and rebuild. Though soon after it happened, one group of TomTom’ers saw an opportunity to use their skills to help those in need. I spoke to them about how they used OpenStreetMap to give search and rescue teams visual guidance within impacted areas.
How it started
Salim Baidoun and Hajar El Ouafi, Community Engagement Managers, typically spend their time speaking with and engaging the OSM community. However, when they both saw the distressing scenes, they also saw the opportunity to act. “After the unfortunate earthquakes struck, I contacted the Turkish community, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOTOSM) and Meta on various platforms to understand the magnitude and impact of the incident.” With this information, Salim says he and Hajar looked “to coordinate the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community’s efforts to map Türkiye and Syria.”From here, Salim reached out to fellow TomTom’ers Berk Ulupinar, Partner Development Coordinator and Selin Yazici, Regional Sourcing Specialist, to assemble a team. Tweets and social media posts on the crisis inspired Berk and Selin, who both wondered, “What can we do at this moment?” “While we tried to collect and send aid for the victims, our colleague Salim informed us that OSM Turkey and other communities had started collecting building data for search and rescue efforts. That’s when we started the work,” Selin told me.
How TomTom'ers used OSM to support during a natural disasterThe first step was identifying the areas that needed the most help. Salim, Berk, Selin and Hajar were in constant conversation with HOTOSM, Meta and local OSM communities to use on-the-ground, local intelligence and know where to dedicate the most resources. From these discussions, Salim, Berk, Selin and Hajar looked at how they could improve map coverage in affected areas on both OSM and TomTom’s map. The more accurate the data, the easier ambulances and other services make their way through the cities. “One of the biggest problems in the earthquake area was detecting collapsed buildings,” says Berk. To fix this, they used HOTOSM’s Tasking Manager and the most recent satellite images to add building footprints in OSM. This gave those on the ground the overview they needed to plan and plot their rescue efforts. Roads, hospitals, safety points and evacuation routes were also sourced and recorded on TomTom’s map to aid navigation. This helped ambulances and other vehicles move around the city safely. Seeing the damage on such a huge scale, the landscape of the impacted areas completely changed. With these map updates, as Hajar points out, “rescuers are able to navigate a scene more quickly, identify risks and hazards, determine the safest way in and out of a building. So, our work is making a big difference and can save lives.”
Why mapping mattersMaps and mapmaking play an important role in everyone’s lives, whether we’re actively mapping or not. At some point, we all use them or are impacted by them somehow. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Community Engagement team, TomTom’s maps are being used to guide people to safety and medical care. And that’s what’s important: the people. Those being rescued, those providing aid, and the people creating the technology that supports them. This comes back to TomTom’s developers and engineers. TomTom’ers are making a difference – in this case, from their initiative. Simple lines of code are able to empower service people to save lives. Everyday work becomes something much more. As Salim sums it up, “By leveraging your skills and expertise, engineers will have the opportunity to play a key role in elevating people’s quality of life.”
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