Mapping in an Emergency: Identifying Vulnerable Populations During COVID-19

Author: Kate Doiron Published: April 22, 2020

At the end of February, we announced the launch of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities GIS Consortium, a program that brings increased access to affordable GIS services for municipalities in Connecticut. Little did we know that less than a month later, city and town resources in Connecticut and across the country would be diverted to dealing with the largest public health crisis in over a century.

We quickly recognized an unfulfilled need for Connecticut municipalities during the crisis: an interactive tool to help municipalities effectively respond to the needs of their most vulnerable residents. In partnership with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, we created the COVID-19 in Connecticut web-mapping application.

Mapping in a Crisis

From the outset, we established a standard that the COVID-19 web map be both simple and comprehensive. These two concepts can often be at odds when creating an application, as the more data you pack into an application, the more difficult it will be to use. We used the following techniques to ensure both conditions were met for our web map, and we encourage other developers to consider these tips when trying to provide quick and easy-to-access information in a crisis.

1. Prioritize Relevant Datasets

  • Do initial research: What datasets are the most relevant to the situation? In the case of COVID-19, age is a significant factor for the disease, as well as comorbidities with asthma and other conditions. We added the locations of facilities like COVID-19 testing sites and hospitals. As soon as data was available, we added to the map daily case counts at the town level.
  • Source the data: Include all data sources in the web map so others can download and use the information as well. Ask for additional sources from your audience.

2. Easy Exploration

  • Pop-outs: Throughout our web map, we curated information in pop-outs. When users click on layers, they see exactly the data they need.
  • Query and export: We included a query tool to allow municipalities to select and export population data, so they can use the data in their own systems.

3. Demo Videos

  • Quick clips: While some users may have familiarity with web maps, we included a series of short demonstration videos so new users can quickly understand the data and tools without having to attend a training.

4. Rinse and Repeat

  • After we released the web map, we went through the above steps again. We added more datasets, more tools, and a second demo video. Getting the web map out to users quickly was key but continuing to update and refine the information included over time keeps the tool relevant and useful in a rapidly evolving situation.

See our web map here. Have questions or suggestions about how we can improve the map? Get in touch using the contact form below.

Contact Us
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Kate Doiron

Senior GIS Analyst

(971) 703-4286

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