GeoCommons, OpenStreetMap, and Mapufacture are three online hubs where people can collaboratively map areas, which could help in emergencies
January 13, 2010 -- Jesse Robbins had to get across U.S. Route 90 quickly. Hurricane Katrina had wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, and Robbins, who is an emergency medical technician, was on a mission for World Shelters, which provides temporary, secure shelters for emergency supplies. Robbins had been guided across the highway by American Red Cross workers using Google (GOOG) mapping tools in areas where street signs were washed away.
But Robbins quickly hit a dead end. The passage had been washed away by the storm; his route was based on dated images, rather than a live satellite feed. "Frequently, you'd be working with them and they'd give you directions over closed streets or places that didn't exist any longer," says Robbins, who also is co-chairman of O'Reilly Media's Velocity conference on Web performance and operations.