Refreshed proposal - Emergency=disaster response

Hi tastrax and thank you for joining the discussion.

The definition we came up with is:

emergency=disaster_response applies to a station of a non-military organisation that has the main objective to help the civil population during and after natural or anthropogenic disasters by working in the affected area but does not have firefighting or medical service as their main competence. The place is used for storing and repairing equipment (hand tools, trucks, boats, safety gear, etc…), training the members (volunteers or paid ones) and doing administrative tasks. It is the place where the members start a mission after being alerted to an incident.

So we did not divide between “response” and “recovery”. “Preparedness” is something we did not include into the definition.
It is hard for me to think of a clear line between “response” and “recovery”. Lets say there are heavy rainfalls that cause a flooding. When is the disaster over? When the rain stops? When all water was pumped away from the city? When mobile generators are set up and running to temporarly replace the damaged power grid?

The idea was to keep it simple. With a tagging scheme like this:


every facility could be classified very detailed. But this tagging scheme is much more complex than just a single tag. And a top level tag for disaster response/recovery is as of now not existing.

Not really sure how you arrive at those distinctions. In the US, we have different type services based on locality. There is local and regional police which keep thing civil during an emergency. Normal emergency services such as fire fighting and medical care are able to quickly cover thier immediate areas. Starting with those closest to the exist network of fire stations and ambulance squads.

Beyond that, there are regional groups often with more specific skills who can lend a hand during larger disaster. These lsearch and rescue team with trained dog and other equipment based on local terrain.

In larger scale disasters, members of the affected state’s National Guard are actived. Its members are probably the closest analogy of a civil defense force. They are volunteers who receive regular training on specialized equipment and skills. All so that they are able them to support existing services often during emergencies. The only real difference is that they are technically a peace keeping force funded and commanded by thier state’s governor.

It appears that in the US, you don’t have the type of groups that this proposal is referring to?

& as such, should be tagged under military=

I disagree. The only real difference is that National Guard troops can be issued military level weapons if required. Most recently members of the states of VA, DE and MD were guarding the US capital as military police.

Most of the time they are called up during emergencies. Carrying out many of the same duties that your civilian defense forces perform. I would understand marking thier bases as military but don’t ignore them because of thier command structure and funding.

In times of peace the main competence of military organisations (fighting in war) is not needed. So in a lot of countrys solders can be integrated into disaster response. Here is a picture of the German army buidling a sandbag dam.


Soilders being integrated into tasks like this doesn’t make the army a disaster response service. And after reading the German wikipedia article about the US National Guard I am sure that they are a military organisation and not a disaster response service.

They are run by the US Army but they were created for both civil defense and military support. My point is that removing them from disaster response equation leaves a large hole in the US and other countries with a similar structures.

To be honest, my knowlege about the US National Guard is limited. So I searched on the English wikipdeia article about the US National Guard for information about their tasks. This is what I found:

The National Guard is a state-based military force that becomes part of the US military’s reserve components of the US Army and the US Air Force […]. It is a military reserve force composed of National Guard military members or units of each state […]. It is officially created […] to “raise and support armies”. All members of the National Guard are also members of the organized militia of the United States […].

Governors may call up the National Guard for active duty to help respond to domestic emergencies and disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.


This is the description of a military organisation. Like already meantioned, military organisations sometimes help in disaster situations. But that does not make them disaster response services.

We already had the exact same discussion 2 weeks ago. It started here. @Friendly_Ghost said this:

The US National Guard does not look like disaster response, it looks like military. And from what I have read, theire main competence is fighting with guns and not responding to floods or earthquakes.

If a country does not have a designated disaster response service but instead uses fire fighters, military forces, police forces and other institutions for disaster response, then there is nothing wrong with this. It just means that emergency=disaster_response does not fit for this country.

That leaves one question unanswered:
How do we deal with a station that fits multile tags or is somewhere in between two tags.

As of now I am not sure, if every station of the Australian SES fits to emergency=disaster_response. In the wiki discussion @Warin61 meantioned that there are specialises SES-stations. I would like to understand that better:

Every station of the German THW always has a “Bergungsgruppe”, a unit with a wide range of capabilatys. It has hydraulic stamps to lift concreet blocks in collapsed houses, chainsaws to cut away fallen trees, rope winches to move away heavy objects, a small water pump, a small electric generator for self suply and much more. On top of this, every THW station has at least one additional unit that is more specialised. For examlpe a unit that has 200kVA electric generators to rebuild a power grid in case of a black out or a pumping unit that is capable of pumping ca. 40000l/min of water.

How do specialized units of the SES work? Do they lack general disaster response capabilatys in exchange for specialized apilitys? I already asked this question in the wiki discussion page but I think here more people are reading.

To the best of my knowledge, all SES units are equipped & trained to provide the same level of basic assistance (sandbags, tarps, ropes, chainsaws etc), while some units are e.g. also equipped with boats for flood rescue.

I wouldn’t try to discriminate between individual units based on what their specialisation, if any, may be.

This is one that I tried to cover with the landuse=emergency discussion. The area of the grounds is landuse=emergency, with a building=emergency, but inside that building is an emergency=disaster_response node for the SES unit, but also an amenity=fire_station node for the Rural Fire Service unit that shares the building.

Ok, if that’s the case, emergency=disaster_response fits all SES stations.

I disagree. Lets say there is an organisation with 100 stations distributed over a country. 90 of these stations offer general disaster response, 5 of them are in the mountains specialised in mountain rescue and 5 are near the coast specialised in water rescue. The water and mountain rescue stations do not offer general disaster response. If a station qucks like disaster response, call it emergency=disaster_response. If a station quacks like water rescue, call it emergency=water_rescue and so on (duck tagging). Just because 90% of the stations of this organisation fit emergency=disaster_response, I would not tag all of them that way. If all of them have the same base level of disaster response but some offer additional specialisation, then I think we should use emergency=disaster_response. But if the station lacks general disaster response capabilatys, in my eyes it would be wrong to use emergency=disaster_response, even though most stations of this organisation are disaster response.

That is not what I meant. I meant a single unit that has capabilatys to do for example disaster response but also water rescue. Using two nodes for one thing is against the “one element in real life - one element in OSM”-rule. I think in that case we would need to decide what is more fitting - emergency=disaster_response or emergency=water_rescue.

OK, but at least in Australia, coastal stations doing dedicated marine rescue work (i.e. rescuing sailors from boats in distress) aren’t operated by the SES, they are operated by Marine Rescue / Volunteer Coastguard (& a couple of other groups depending on which State) so they should be tagged as =water_rescue, not =emergency_response.

Yes, they can, & do, assist with flood work, as military can assist with emergencies, but that is not their primary role.

Similarly, those SES units on the Coast which are equipped for flood rescue, could if absolutely necessary, go out to sea to rescue somebody in distress, but aren’t supposed to, as their vessels are not designed for the open ocean.

I think that brings it on point. Basically the main objective of the station decides which tag to use. That would mean that two stations of the same organisation would not necessarily both get emergency=disaster_response. Even if the SES has no such stations it is still in theory possible. I wonder if there is in practice an organisastion that runs an emergency=disaster_response-station but also a different kind of emergency=*-station.

Was there any feedback?

One comment (#140) ^ from Tastrax, but nothing else.

The discussion seems to be flattening out. In the past 5 days I asked twice for comments in the RFC-Thread without any answer. The last time anyone beside me added something to the discussion page was over 10 days ago.

According to the proposal process at least 2 weeks have to pass between the start of the RFC and the voting. These 2 weeks are over. Do you think that the flattening of the discussion means that we should start the vote soon? Or do we need to improve the proposal further?

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I would say that’s long enough, so move it to voting.

If there’s a sudden rash of pertinent comments (as there usually is, despite it being talked about for weeks prior :roll_eyes:), you can always stop the voting process & roll it back to discussion if necessary.


This has come up a few times in this thread. It might help to start the proposal with something like this:

In some countries (e.g. Germany, Australia), there are dedicated non-military organisations whose primary purpose is to aid during disaster response. Different approaches have been developed in different countries to tag them. The goal of this proposal is to unify their tagging. Organisations that help during disasters but do not have disaster response as their primary purpose (e.g. police, fire bridage, medical services) are not affected. Because of how disaster response is organised differently around the world this means the proposed tag will probably not be used in all countries, only in those that have such disaster response agencies as described on this page.

This is just to avoid misunderstandings especially by mappers who may be unfamiliar with this type of organisation.

You could also make a short post in the German part of the forum, since THW is one of the main organisations affected, and there are some people active there who aren’t active in the English forum.

In any case I think this looks good and you have my vote :+1:

That is a very good point. Some of this was already in the Rationale but I reworked the section and incooperated your thoughts. What do you think about that formulation?


In some countries (e.g. Germany, Australia), there are dedicated organisations whose primary purpose is to aid the population during and after disasters. Currently there is no consistent scheme existing to tag these. While disaster response is organised differently in different countries, there are similar organisations in different countries that should be consistently tagged. As disaster response is a type of emergency service, it is logical to use the emergency=* key. Organisations that help in disasters but do not have disaster response as their primary purpose (e.g. police, fire bridage, medical services) are not affected. As disaster response is organised differently around the world the proposed tag will probably not be used in all countries, only in those that have such disaster response agencies as described on this page.

Good point and done:

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It’s been mentioned a few times here, so it would probably be a good idea to include “military” in that list.

I agree. I changed it to:

Organisations that help in disasters but do not have disaster response as their primary purpose (e.g. police, fire bridage, medical services, military) are not affected.


There is currently no active discussion about the proposal. I just started the voting for the proposal. Please give your vote: