Digital mapping transforming UK charities’ response to emergencies

The charity sector’s response to emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic is being bolstered by advances in digital mapping, according to the British Red Cross which has been developing the technology.

The mapping tools used by the British Red Cross include interactive maps that charities can share, to pinpoint locations of greatest need and to more efficiently support their outreach work.

This has been developed amid the Covid-19 crisis by the charity and is being used by the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP), a network of more than 250 organisations set up to respond to crisis.

The digital mapping technology uses Esri GIS (Geographic Information System) software using the cloud to develop online maps.

The new tools have been helping the British Red Cross and VCSEP, which was launched following the Grenfell disaster and London and Manchester terrorist
attacks in 2017, to better understand local and national need during the Covid-19 crisis.

This includes pinpointing the charities best suited to meet requests for testing, vaccinations, food, clothing and PPE in local communities amid the pandemic.

Also included is an online Vulnerability Index map to visualise multiple data sets of clinical vulnerability and disadvantage. This includes targeting areas of digital exclusion.

VCSEP senior information manager Alexie Schwab said: “Previously, local knowledge and relationships were heavily relied upon but now we have the spatial data to spot geographic trends and make more informed decisions to supplement vital, local knowledge

He added: “This is just the beginning – there is a huge appetite within the VCSEP to find new ways of visualising and working with data to support a joined-up emergency response.

“We are a small organisation with a large network and better use of data can help drive further efficiencies.”

“The British Red Cross is proud of its role providing GIS and Information Management expertise globally to help those in crisis,” said British Red Cross director of digital Adam Rowlands.

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