Crisis Map Editor Documentation
Last updated June 2015
Google Crisis Map is an open source tool from the Google.org Crisis Response team that allows for the creation of mashups for crisis, humanitarian, and non-profit purposes. Since its initial launch in late-2011, Google Crisis Map has been the go-to tool of the Google.org Crisis Response team for the dissemination of disaster-related geographic information. Among the notable uses of Google Crisis Map were Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. By participating in these relief efforts, Google Crisis Map has added value to the disaster response landscape -- mashing up response-relevant geographic data, and making it accessible and useful to those affected by a disaster..
Using Google Crisis Map, users can create and publish their own Google.org-hosted crisis maps. Through Google Crisis Map, editors are able to collaboratively “mash up” geographic data in different formats, including KML/KMZ, GeoRSS, Google My Maps, Google Fusion Tables, WMS, and others. Once a map has been created and published, its content is available in a mobile- and cross-browser-optimized viewing frame, thus maximizing the accessibility and usefulness of the data across a broad range of users and scenarios. And since the maps are hosted by Google, map curators can be confident that their crisis maps will remain available when traffic levels are at their highest.
Introductory Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgYzmsH0efc
Google Crisis Map is currently in beta, and you may encounter bugs and issues along the way. Your feedback is extremely valuable to help us improve the tool. Please report bugs, feature requests, and other issues through our feedback form. To see a list of currently open issues, or to submit a patch or feature improvement, please see the Google Crisis Map open source project page.
Google Crisis Map is designed around collaboration. Map creation, sharing and publishing are optimized for users of the same Google Apps domain (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com). Google Crisis Map also works with personal Gmail accounts, though the ability to collaborate and publish will be subject to limitations. If you are an individual or @gmail.com user looking to create a new crisis map, please skip ahead to the “Creating and editing maps” section.
Creating a domain
If you don’t already have a Google Apps account, you may visit https://www.google.com/apps for a free trial. Once you have a Google Apps account, you can use a domain-associated email address to log into the tool, then begin creating, collaborating on, and publishing maps for that particular domain. A list of maps for your domain is hosted at google.org/crisismap/a/example.com/.maps
If you are the first user from a given Google Apps domain to create a map, you’ll be asked to set up Crisis Map for that domain before you can start creating maps. As the Crisis Map administrator for your domain, you are able manage users associated with that Google Apps domain, and set publishing and permissions defaults.
Once Crisis Map is set up for your domain, it is managed through the domain administration page, which can be accessed through the “Administer” link on the left sidebar. Use this page to:
To get started, visit Google Crisis Map and log into the application with your Google Apps or Gmail account. Once logged in, you’ll see a list of maps -- the “map list” -- that you have created or have access to. This list will likely be empty on your first visit.
Click "Create" and read our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which you have the opportunity to accept. The AUP is designed to ensure maps are created for crisis, humanitarian, and non-profit purposes. Please contact us to talk about options for creating maps for other purposes.
After accepting the AUP, a draft map is created and opened in the map editor. The map editor allows you to customize and add content to your draft map. Draft maps are not publicly visible; they are marked "DRAFT" near the title of the map, and are identified by an alphanumeric ID in the URL. To edit the map, click on the title of the map (initially titled "Untitled map"), which will spawn a dialog box to capture basic map information.
Map details dialog box triggered by clicking on the map title.
This dialog box includes the following editable map attributes:
For Google type base maps, additional documentation is available here.
The ‘Styled map name’ appearing in the base map picker on the map
You add new content to your map by using the “Add layer” link which resides in the toolbar just below the layer tabs in the editor.
“Add layer” will open the dialog box needed to add content to the map
The Create new layer a dialog appears:
The “Create new layer” dialog box
The Create new layer dialog allows you to set the following layer parameters:
For more information on making your KML file publicly available, see Appendix: Hosting a KML file on the web.
Additional information related to using Google Fusion Tables layers can be found here.
For each layer you want to add from a Google Maps Engine map, enter two values:
For more information on Google Crisis Map-supported content, and getting these data into your map, see ‘Appendix.’ Note: You should only add to your map content which you own or where you have the permission of the owner or other legal justification to use that content.
You add one or more existing layers to your map by clicking “Import published layers” at the upper right of the Create new layer dialog.
You can then select one or more layers to import from the dialog that appears:
The import layers dialog box
Layers added to your map are listed in the right-side layers list in the map editor beneath the map title and description. You can edit a layer by selecting the ‘Edit’ link that appears under the layer’s name in the layer list.
Editing layer details can be done using the “Edit” link associated with a selected layer
When you select “Edit”, an Edit layer details dialog appears.
Edit layer details page
To edit the layer, change one or more of the field values. These fields are the same as those that appear in the Create new layer dialog.
Adding and editing folders
Google Crisis Map supports the creation of folders as a vehicle for organizing and displaying related data layers. To create a folder, click the “Add folder” button on the toolbar, which creates an empty folder at the top of the layers list.
To add a folder to the map, click the “Add folder” link
To edit the folder, click the “Edit” link associated with the new folder.
The folder details dialog
The Edit folder dialog allows you to set the following attributes:
“Unlocked” folder, with all contained layers listed below
“Single select” folder, only a single layer can be selected and displayed from layers contained within folder.
To add content (either individual layers or other folders) into a folder, or move content out of a folder, use the “Arrange” layer tool, described in the next section.
Adding a legend
After you’ve added a layer or folder to the map, it’s important to also include a legend with it. A legend will enable your users to better understand what they’re actually looking at on the map, once that layer or folder is enabled. Through the ‘Add item’ widget associated with the “Legend” in the details dialog box, a map editor is able to associate colors and icons from the layer or folder they’ve created, with the underlying data. You can also supply arbitrary html to use for the legend, through the “Edit HTML” widget alongside the “Add item” widget. Note: Any legends you create here will be available by clicking on the “Legend” tab.
The add legend widget in the details dialog box
The add legend widget will automatically extract icons from a KML to be used for the legend
A fully populated legend, with ‘X’ boxes to remove
Legend tab, displaying legends associated with an active/enabled layer.
After adding map content to the map, you can reorder the arrangement of layers in the map editor by clicking "Arrange" in the toolbar. Drag the layers into the desired order and click OK. To help guide layer arrangement, a horizontal bar is displayed where the layer/folder being dragged will ultimately reside.
After clicking on arrange layers, drag and drop layer titles to affect order of content in the panel
To represent content that is contained within a folder, Google Crisis Map uses indentation (see: Hourly combined ozone and PM2.5 layer, below). To add, or remove content from a folder, move the folder or layers using the indentation as a guide to hierarchy.
The layer “Hourly combined ozone and PM2.5” can be seen to live inside the “Air Quality” folder as indicated by the indentation
To undo recent changes, such as the deletion of a layer, click the "Undo" link in the toolbar. After you undo changes, you can redo them by clicking "Redo" in the toolbar. You may undo/redo any number of changes between saves.
After completing a map edit action (e.g., adding/updating map or layer-level information), remember to save the map using the "Save" link on the toolbar.
Click the “Save” link will preserve any changes you made to the map
Your changes will be lost if you close the window without clicking "Save"! You will also be prompted to save the map if you try to navigate away from the page before changes have been saved. (We are aware that this is easy to forget, and are working on improving this process.)
To specify the desired initial view for users accessing your map (i.e. layers enabled, map viewport), click on the “Set current view as default” link under the map description in the “About” tab, and click “Save.”
Capture the current state of the map (layers enabled, viewport) using the “Set current view as default” link
To reset the map to the initial view of the map, click to “Reset to default view.”
Google Crisis Map enables the shared and distributed curation of maps. To invite a user to edit a given map, click on the “Collaborate” button on the toolbar, select invitation type as “editor”, and supply the user’s email address.
“Collaborate” link on the toolbar, and Collaborate dialog box.
Once the Collaborate dialog box has been populated and submitted, an email will be sent to the user with the invite. Note: Google Crisis Map does not support concurrent editing, so editing by a collaborator should be done after the first user is done making edits, and has clicked “Save.”
In Google Crisis Map, users create and edit draft maps. Draft maps are marked "DRAFT" near the title of the map, and are identified by an alphanumeric ID in the URL. When you are ready to publish a draft map, you assign it a publication label in the map list (see the screenshot, below). Once this happens, a snapshot of the map becomes publicly visible at a URL containing that label. You can then share that URL or use it to embed the map in your website.
Note: Further edits to the draft map do not affect the published version until you republish the map. This behavior allows you to make a set of changes and review them before replacing what’s currently being shown in the published map.
For example, suppose Alice and Bob are both registered to use Google Crisis Map and have e-mail addresses in the domain "example.com". Alice creates a map named "Habitats," and adds two layers to the map, "Rabbits" and "Lions." The draft map will be visible only to others in the domain "example.com," and it will have a URL containing a generated alphanumeric ID, similar to this:
If Alice publishes the map with the publication label "habitats," the map then becomes publicly available at:
Because Bob also has an e-mail address at example.com, he can edit the draft map. If he adds a third layer, "Hawks," this updated map will be visible at the draft URL, but not the published URL. Bob can ask Alice to review his changes in the latest draft version, and when Alice approves, she can republish the map, which updates the published URL to include Bob's new "Hawks" layer.
To publish a map, visit your list of maps at http://google.org/crisismap/a/.maps, enter a label in the "Published version" column, and click "Publish". If the draft map has been updated since the last time it was published, there will be a "Republish" button which allows you to update the currently published version. To unpublish a published map, which makes the map non-public (i.e. only available to its owner and associated editors), click the small X that appears when you point at the published URL. These various publish options can be seen, in their order of the map publishing process, below:
1) Add a publication label
Once a map has been created that’s ready to be made available to the public, add a Publication Label to the Publish field, which will be the name of the map externally.
2) Add publisher information via publisher name dialog box
The publisher name dialog box, used to add attribution to the published map. Note: HTML is supported in the publisher tab, so you can include such elements as hyperlinks, and small icons.
3) Republish a map
To edit the visibility of a published map, you can Republish a map (where changes have been made to the map after publishing), and Unpublish a map (make map be no longer publicly available)
To promote published content for a domain, Google Crisis Map provides a map picker, available from any of your published maps (by domain, if applicable). Anyone can view a list of your maps in the map picker by clicking the downward-pointing triangle next to the title of the map to open a dropdown menu of all listed maps for your domain.
Map picker, circled in red, which spawns a dropdown of published maps per domain for easier discovery
Domain administrators choose which maps are listed in the map picker for their domain. If you are an administrator, click the "Published Maps" link in the upper left. This will take you to a list of all the maps published in your domain. Select the "In menu" checkboxes to determine which maps will appear in the map picker menu, then click "Save changes" at the bottom of the page.
Click the "Share" button on the map to show options for sharing your map. The Share dialog is meant to provide a view-only representation of the map, capturing the current viewport and enabled layers, in the following ways:
When other users follow your shared link or open a webpage with the embedded map, they will see the map with the viewport, zoom level, and layer selections that were selected when you shared the map.
Your feedback is extremely helpful to us! Please report bugs, feature requests, and any other issues through our feedback form.
Google Crisis Map is being made available for crisis, humanitarian, and non-profit use cases, as described in the Acceptable Use Policy. General usage and terms are covered per Google Terms of Service and Google Maps/Earth Additional Terms of Service.
To set the language used for the map controls from “en”, the default, append "?hl=XX" to the published map URL, replacing XX with an ISO 639-1 language code. For example, appending "?hl=fr" will cause the controls to appear in French. Approximately 60 different languages and locales are supported.
Here are a few way to find content to add to your maps:
Note: You should only add to your map content which you own or where you have the permission of the owner or other legal justification to use that content
Yes, we encourage you to publish maps for public use. You can either distribute a link to the map itself or embed the map in a web page (click the "Share" button on the published map to produce an HTML snippet that you can embed on a web page). To help us improve Google Crisis Map, please collect real-world feedback from your users through our feedback form.
The following common geo data formats are directly or indirectly supported by Google Crisis Map. The notes provide information on the capabilities (and in some instances, limitations) associated with each format. Note that all data, regardless of format, must be served on the Web and publicly-accessible.
Broad industry support.
Rich styling language to control look & feel of the content.
Availability of tools for KML creation.
** Some features (e.g., large files or images, advanced KML tags) are not supported on Maps (see here for complete list of supported elements).
Simple and lightweight format.
** No ability to control styling of content.
** No ability to serve raster data (imagery).
Supports raster content (e.g., satellite imagery) as overlay to Google base map.
** Limited tools available to create map tiles.
An HTTP-based service interface for requesting georeferenced images from a server.
** Returns a picture of the data, limited ability for client to interact with the data, e.g. no infowindows to click on and open.
** Requires having access to, and/or setting up and maintaining a WMS-supported server to provide WMS service.
Hosted by Google. Offers ability to ingest and visualize tabular, spreadsheet, or KML data.
** No ability to import raster data (imagery).
Hosted by Google. Scalable, Google Cloud-based data hosting, styling and publishing tool.
Supports raster and vector GIS datasets in KML, CSV, shapefile, GeoTiff and other formats.
Ability to collaborate and control data permissions.
Common GIS data format for vector data (points, lines, polygons).
** No ability to handle raster data (imagery)
** Content not directly supported in Google Crisis Map; must be ingested and served by third-party tool, e.g. Google Maps Engine
If your data is available in KML format, then you’re already a step ahead. You just need to make sure it works well in Google Maps and is hosted online.
The first thing you’ll want to check is that your KML works well in Google Maps, i.e., that the data shows on the map and infowindows pop up correctly. While most KML works great in Google Earth and other geo browsers, some types of KML don’t work well in Google Maps, including very large files, large image overlays, superoverlays, other files with many network links, and files that use advanced KML tags. You can learn about the technical details for KML in Google Maps here and here.
A easy way to test your KML in Google Maps is to put the URL for your KML into the search bar at maps.google.com. Your KML will need to be online at a publicly-accessible URL. If your KML is stored on your local desktop, some options for hosting it on the web are listed in the next section. One fast way to verify that the KML works well is to upload it as an attachment to a Google Sites page, copy the “download” link URL for the file from that page, then paste that into the search bar in Google Maps.
Once you’ve confirmed that your KML or KMZ file works in Google Maps, you’ll need to host it on the public web. If your KML is being served from a server, you’re good to go, but if your KML is a static file on your computer, you need to host it. Here are some hosting options.
Shapefiles are one of the most common GIS data formats for vector data (points, lines, polygons). Shapefiles come in the form of at least three files with the same name and the extensions “.shp”, “.dbf”, “.shx”, plus sometimes others. To add data from a shapefile in Google Crisis Map, you must convert the data into a form that can be displayed on Google Maps, including KML, Fusion Tables, or as a Google My Map.
If you have access to a Google Maps Engine Platform (GME) account, you can upload your shapefile directly, style it by adding infowindows, icons, etc, then add it as a layer in Google Crisis Map.
There are a number of ways to convert shapefile data to KML. Most GIS software packages, including ArcGIS, QGIS, MapWindow, and others have built-in or optional tools that will do the conversion. Most of the built-in tools have limited ability to create high-quality, web-compatible, well-styled KML, but if you keep things simple, you should be able to make them work. If you have ArcGIS, the output of the KML tools varies: sometimes it works in Google Maps, sometimes not. If you want more options for making high-quality, well-styled KML in ArcGIS, consider using a 3rd party extension such as Arc2Earth, which does a great job (if you’re willing to pay for it). Google Earth Pro will also import shapefiles, then export the data as KML. Once you have KML, you can host it online in one of the ways described in the KML section above, then add it as a KML layer in Google Crisis Map.
If you want to skip the KML conversion step and go straight to serving your shapefile data using Google Fusion Tables, the “Shape to Fusion” tool will help you. Go to www.shpescape.com, upload your shapefile, and let it write the data to a Fusion Table. Set the styling for your data in Fusion Tables, then add it as a Fusion Table layer in Google Crisis Map.
Tabular datasets are any data contained in a table such as a text file (CSV, TSV, etc.), a spreadsheet (Google Spreadsheets, Open Office, Microsoft Excel, etc.), or a simple database table (DBF, etc.). To use the dataset with Google Crisis Map, it must be hosted online as a KML file or in some other map-friendly format. Here are some options:
With Google Fusion Tables, you can upload tabular data, then map it on the web. Fusion Tables will accept uploaded data in text-delimited formats such as CSV and TSV, spreadsheet formats such as XLS, XSLX, ODS, and Google Spreadsheets. If your data is in another format (eg: DBF), your software should be able to export your data to CSV or another compatible format. For more information on Fusion Tables, see file types and size limits, preparing your data, and geographic data types. Once your data is uploaded, you can create a map, select from basic styling options, and create pop-up infowindow templates. Make sure that your table has "Allow download" checked (in the “File > About this table” window) and that the sharing is set to "Public" or "Anyone with the link". Then, copy the "Encrypted ID" from “File > About this table”, and use this ID to add the layer in Google Crisis Map.
Since Google Earth Pro can import CSV files and export KML, you can use it convert your tabular data to a Google Maps-compatible format. Save your tabular data from your spreadsheet or database to CSV format, import it into and style it with Google Earth Pro, and then save it out to KML. See the Google Earth help pages for info on Importing your data into Google Earth, and see the section on KML for ways to host your KML online for use in Google Crisis Map.
Through Google My Maps, users have the ability to draw points, lines, and polygons onto the map, in addition to importing existing sources of data, including CSV (and KML, and XLSX) files. To import this content, click on the Import link associated with a new layer, and follow the instructions provided (below)
Import dialog for adding a CSV into My Maps
If you have access to a Google Maps Engine Platform (GME) account, you can upload some CSV files directly, style it in Maps Engine, then add it as a layer in Google Crisis Map.
Crisis Map supports adding one or more WMS (Web Map Service) layers. WMS is an open standard that defines an interface for requesting geographic data from a server. A WMS service returns an image (PNG, JPG, TIFF, etc.) corresponding to a user’s request, which would include the desired layer, area of interest, projection, etc.
An absolute URL pointing to a publicly-accessible WMS service, which will ideally include a GetCapabilities request parameter.
After entering the Source URL, the Layers box is populated with the layers provided by that particular WMS service. You can select one or more of the listed layers to add to your new Crisis Map layer.
Here is the a portion of the ’Airport Runway Footprints’ displayed as a new Crisis Map layer (overlaid on an existing Crisis Map):
For information on the NOAA nowCOAST WMS, see http://nowcoast.noaa.gov/help/mapservices.shtml.
KML - Keyhole Markup Language
GeoRSS & RSS - Really Simple Syndication
Google Fusion Tables
Google Maps API
Web Map Service (WMS)