News from the Rapid Mapping module of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS)

Towards the end of 2019, on 30th October, the Rapid Mapping module of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) was activated for the 400th time. This was a special moment in the history of the 365-days-a-year, 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day CEMS Rapid Mapping module, which since April 2012 has been providing satellite-based information on the impact of (mostly) natural disasters, to European and global emergency response actors.


CEMS ( is one of six core services of Copernicus - the EU’s Earth observation programme - and is jointly managed by three European Commission Directorate-Generals (DGs): European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The JRC is the technical coordinator of CEMS, and uses Framework Contracts with consortia from European industry and academia for its implementation.


CEMS Rapid Mapping - which is one of the two on-demand mapping modules of CEMS (the other being CEMS Risk & Recovery Mapping) - can be directly activated by one of the thirty-two “focal points”: one in each EU Member State, plus the Copernicus participating countries of Iceland and Norway, European Commission services and the European External Action Service (EEAS). Non-authorised users (i.e. other national, regional or local organisations) can also activate the service through the Authorised Users.


The entry point for all CEMS Rapid Mapping activations is DG ECHO’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) in Brussels, which validates each request and forwards it to the consortia, which then order satellite imagery, analyse them and prepare the final products in form of digital data and ready-to-print maps. With some exceptions, all products are made available on the public portal (see below). The activating user is constantly informed about progress, and the public is informed through the portal and the CEMS Twitter account. Follow our Twitter feed - @CopernicusEMS - where maps and vector data are posted automatically in near real-time!


Since it started in April 2012, CEMS Rapid Mapping has been activated more than 400 times for different kinds of disaster events - mostly natural disasters - happening all over the world. Figure 1 shows the global distribution and type of all analysed events, 60% of which were disasters occurring in Europe.


Figure 2 shows the number of activations per event type during the past seven years. As can be seen, CEMS Rapid Mapping has seen a significant increase in activations during the past three years, and this trend is continuing. The past two-and-a-half years alone have seen as many activations as the previous four-and-a-half years, underlining the service’s relevance and usefulness.


The European Commission - together with the CEMS Rapid Mapping users, the service providers, and the European Space Agency (which ensures fast data access to a number of satellite missions, including the Sentinels) - is continuously striving to improve the service and adapt it to changing user needs. In 2019 the service’s portfolio was revised, and it now offers faster delivery of the products, including one additional fast post-event product (“First Estimate”) and more efficient delivery and dissemination modes, with web services for a more interactive viewing of the results including the imagery about to be released.


The 400th activation of CEMS Rapid Mapping was launched by the ERCC, following up on a request from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide information on the severe flooding which was occurring at that time in Bangui, Central African Republic. The list of all service activations and the released maps are available at the second web-link below.


Annett Wania, Inès Joubert-Boitat, Simone Dalmasso

European Commission, Joint Research Centre


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