João Porto de Albuquerque

Identifying Elements at Flood Risk with Volunteered Geographic Information

An Approach based on OpenStreetMaps with a Case Study in Cologne


The identification of elements at risk is an essential part in Hazard Risk Assessment. Especially for recurring natural hazards like floods, an updated database with information about critical elements at flood risk (e.g. schools, hospitals etc.) is fundamental to support crisis preparedness and response activities. However, acquiring and maintaining an up-to-date database with elements at risk requires both detailed local knowledge and hazard-specific constraints, being often a challenge for local communities due to lack of expertise and appropriate funding, deferred priorities and complex political determinations.

We present a new approach for leveraging OpenStreetMap data to automatically identify hazard-specific elements at risk. We provide a new data model for extracting elements at flood risk from OSM and conduct a case study in the city of Cologne, Germany to validate our approach.

Our results show that the identification of elements at flood risk with citizen-generated geodata is a suitable and cost-effective alternative for supporting local government and communities in risk assessment and emergency planning. Furthermore, the use of OSM may engage citizens in risk preparedness and risk reduction activities and thus increase risk awareness of local communities, closing the gap between citizens and governmental bodies.

About the author

Visiting Professor at Heidelberg University and Professor at University of Sao Paulo. João is currently researching on Collaborative Systems and VGI for Disaster Risk Management and, in particular, how can be leverage OpenStreetMap to improve research and practice of disaster management.


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