In the hours and days after any disaster, humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross seek answers to a few key questions: Where were people during the disaster? How many people are affected? What are their primary needs?

Red Cross and Red Crescent teams on the ground can’t always answer these questions on their own. Thanks to technology, collaboration from around the world, and data crunching, answers are coming more quickly. This empowers teams—who are working in often very difficult environments—to better assist people in need.

For several years, the Red Cross has been working on innovative mapping projects to help communities prepare for and respond to disasters. Updated maps can expedite the delivery of emergency supplies, determine where help is needed most, and even track the spread of diseases like Ebola. After Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the Nepal earthquake, disaster responders used crowd-sourced mapping data to navigate their way to people in need and assess places with the most damage.

Today, the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are announcing another innovation in the field: a collaboration with Facebook around Disaster Maps that uses aggregated Facebook data to show where communities are located after a disaster, where they are moving, and where they are checking in as ‘safe.’

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