Understanding User Needs for Map Symbol Standards in Emergency Management

Anthony C. Robinson, Robert E. Roth, Alan M. MacEachren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


Standardizing and coordinating information is a key challenge for supporting effective emergency management practices. Conventions can be established to ensure collaborators can find common ground quickly during an emergency, but developing such conventions remains difficult amidst continual evolution and diversification in information sources and products. For example, maps are critical to many emergency management situations and cartographers in a wide range of government organizations currently employ a broad range of symbols for their mapping needs. These cartographers must be able to develop geographic information products to support many different mission areas, and map users in an emergency situation must be able to readily understand what they are seeing. Standardizing map symbology can help ensure that geographic information is consumable, but developing standards is a non trivial task. The ANSI 415-2006 INCITS Homeland Security Map Symbol Standard was designed to standardize point symbols for emergency management mapping within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In this paper, we report the results of a series of interviews conducted with DHS cartographers and map users to characterize the adoption and use of the ANSI standard, to identify the use of other map symbol standards, to identify critical incidents regarding map symbology, to explore technical and organizational challenges for standard development, and to elicit ideas for new processes for developing map symbol standards that support homeland security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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