After many months of effort, we are proud to offer you Do 1102, Safety Maps.
Safety Maps is a free online tool that helps you plan for emergency situations. You can use it to choose a safe meeting place, print a customized map that specifies where it is, and share this map with your loved ones. (As it says on the site, the best way to understand how it works is simply to get started making a Safety Map of your own.)
It’s been a delicate thing for us to build. Given the entire framing of the site, both it and the maps it produces absolutely have to work in their stated role: coordinating the action of couples, households and other small groups under the most trying of circumstances, when communications and other infrastructures may simply be unavailable. They have to do so without implying that a particular location is in fact safer than any other under a given set of conditions, or would remain accessible in the event of disaster. (We recommend that wherever possible, you personally and physically pre-validate the gathering places you specify on your Safety Maps.) And they have to do so legibly, clearly, and straightforwardly.
These are utilitarian preparedness/resilience considerations, and they’re eminently appropriate. But in the end, the site springs from a different set of concerns: in our original conception, the primary purpose of these artifacts is to prompt us to think about the people we love and the utter and harrowing contingency of the circumstances that allow us to be together.
Even though it’s obviously an accident of timing, we’ve had some questions about releasing Safety Maps so soon on the heels of the Sendai earthquake/tsunami. We certainly don’t want to appear to be in any way reaping benefit from the suffering of others. Sadly, though, there are in truth precious few windows between natural or manmade catastrophes of one sort or another, and so we launch. We hope you find it useful — that, at the very least, it prompts you to spend just a few minutes thinking about what provisions you’ve made for coordinating with those you love, in the event the unthinkable comes to pass.
This project which would have been unimaginable without the expert guidance and hard work of Tom Carden and Mike Migurski. Our thanks, also, to Cloudmade and the entire community of Open Street Map contributors, without whom Safety Maps would have remained nothing more than a notion. (If you’re not familiar with Open Street Map, by the way, we heartily recommend finding out more. It’s a free, user-editable map of the world, a Wikipedia for places.)
We would be very interested in hearing from you regarding the use you make of Safety Maps, both the experiences you have with the tool itself and those you have around the maps.