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Rapid Post Earthquake Community-Sourced Data Collection

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula in August 2021, causing extensive building failures that killed thousands.


GHI Haiti Field Officer, Gefthé Dévilmé trained a team of local people about earthquake aftershocks and how to stay safe in post-disaster settings. They were so eager to learn that the one-hour training extended to three hours. Trainees then conducted much of the outreach in subsequent photos. Photo: Ronald Surpris

This program quickly hired and trained people in affected communities to document the damages, which provided humanitarian organizations with data to inform response and recovery priorities. The "cash for work" approach also infused money into the local economy and helped to develop local risk management knowledge.

The dataset included homes, schools, health facilities, churches, and government structures. The focus was both rural and urban areas of three Southern Peninsula departments: Nippes, Sud, and Grand’Anse. Our technical partner was the University of Notre Dame, the lead institution for the Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance (StEER) network.


GeoHazards International trained non-technical community members to collect earthquake damage photos and building information on a Creole-English app that StEER developed. After reviewing the local data and satellite-generated data, remote engineers virtually assigned building damage ratings. Our local Field Officer, who lives near the 2021 Haiti earthquake epicenter, conducted training and oversaw logistics. He was the liaison between data collectors, remote engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey technical experts.

While in the field, often traveling on foot to difficult-access villages, the community data collection teams also answered questions from frightened residents. They explained that aftershocks are to be expected after damaging earthquakes, and they provided safety information such as to avoid damaged buildings in case of an aftershock. People said that they needed this kind of information and asked the teams to return for further training.

Data collected in this program will also be used to refine U.S. Geological Survey products (ShakeMap, PAGER, and Ground Failure) used by humanitarian organizations following major earthquakes, and it will be used to “ground truth” and improve satellite-based rapid damage-assessment tools.

These efforts were partially funded by a grant from the American people, through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Other sources of funding included donations from corporations and individuals interested in supporting communities in the earthquake-affected area.

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