Typhoon Yolanda - MapAction Response Deployment

On the 8th of November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, hit the central Philippines. The typhoon killed over 6,000 people and displaced over 4 million. As well as being a GIS Consultant at Esri UK, I volunteer for MapAction in my spare time. MapAction is an NGO which provides GIS capability in times of humanitarian emergency (www.mapaction.org). Volunteers can be expected to be flown into the centre of an emergency, sometimes with only a few hours notice. Esri UK were kind enough to allow me to put my name down to deploy for this emergency.

MapAction had had a team in the Philippines since before the typhoon struck. I went out, along with 3 other MapAction volunteers to close down the mission on the 6th of December. Despite arriving a month after the typhoon hit the Philippines the destruction was still apocalyptic, with no building left undamaged. On the 15th of November we drove from Tacloban City to Guiuan; we drove for almost 4 hours and saw no break in the devastation.


Esri UK sponsor MapAction and provide them with access to the Esri suite of products free of charge. For the Philippines deployment MapAction were using a combination of ArcGIS for Desktop for building the map products and ArcGIS Online to distribute the map products to the public.

The key map products MapAction were producing during the emergency included reference maps and Who’s doing What, Where (3w) maps. Reference maps are a vital product in any emergency, as people from all over the world are being flown into the area to aid the response. These maps were built using standard Desktop tools. 3w maps show the geographical distribution of humanitarian actors across the area of the emergency and are a very important tool in the co-ordination of the relief effort. If people understand where other agencies are working they can avoid over and under subscription of effort. In the Philippines we were creating these maps for every single affected province and for every single cluster (i.e. Health, Shelter, Protection), over 350 maps in total! Using Date Driven Pages in ArcGIS for Desktop, we were able to automate the process of building these maps, making an impossible task simple to achieve!

Once we had built the maps, we would print them out for whomever needed them. To give people who could not come to the office access to the maps, MapAction uploaded copies to a number of different websites; including MapAction.org, ReliefWeb, Humanitarian Response and ArcGIS Online. All of the .pdfs of the maps were loaded into ArcGIS Online and shared through a public group. Users were then directed to that group where they could navigate through all of the maps relevant to the Philippines emergency, then download and print the appropriate ones. The map gallery can be found here. MapAction also configured their ArcGIS Online homepage to act as a public facing website cataloguing the maps most relevant to the emergency, it can be found here.

My deployment to the Philippines was my first MapAction deployment. It was amazing to see ArcGIS products being used in the field to aid such an important mission.