Maps are going Google

Prepare, Respond & Recover

Imagine you’re the city mayor and staring into the eye of a hurricane. Before the storm hits, how will you communicate with your citizens, getting them to where they need to be — as quickly as possible? Maps offer a solution.

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Over the thousands of years people have lived in cities, we’ve developed sophisticated infrastructure to keep things humming. Generally, we’ve gotten pretty good at creating safe places where people can work and live. So when it comes to running cities in the year 2014, what could go wrong? Plenty.

Rolling blackouts, spikes in population, and natural disasters have driven home one very important point: We can’t control the unexpected.

We can, however, plan for it.

During storms and other public emergencies, a quick response can mean the difference between life and death, for people and businesses.

That’s why forward-thinking government organizations and companies are providing their teams with tools that help them coordinate in advance, and even under duress. How? Using maps.


Brazil’s Man on a Mission

Our mission is to save lives. We must respond quickly to emergencies, and shorten the time between when a problem starts and when it’s solved. In our case, time is money, but time is also life, literally.”

— Pedro Junqueira

CEO and chief operating officer
Center of operations Rio De Janeiro

Sout America

Rio de Janeiro

The citizens of Brazil’s second largest city might not know it, but Pedro Junqueira is looking out for them.

Rio de Janeiro is a vibrant city known for hosting large festivals and international events that attract hundreds of thousands, including the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. With more than 6 million inhabitants and untold tourists, Rio’s challenge is to maintain its exciting hustle and bustle, while also keeping people safe.

That’s where Pedro comes in.

As CEO of Rio de Janeiro’s Center of Operations (COR), Pedro heads a team of 400 people who monitor the city’s activities around the clock.

“Our mission is to save lives,” says Pedro. “We must respond quickly to emergencies, and shorten the time between when a problem starts and when it’s solved. In our case, time is money, but time is also life, literally.”

Pedro thinks about protecting the people in his city from morning until night. “I love being part of the rich and unique momentum that Rio de Janeiro is facing,” says Pedro. “The decisions we make help countless people, which is priceless!”

Mastering Maps: Ready for Anything

We use mapping technology to create a common operating picture for our team and our partner organizations.”

— Pedro Junqueira

COR integrates the efforts of nearly 90,000 employees from 30 agencies, including the mayor’s office and the Municipal Guard. Together, they work to minimize public risks and ensure they’re prepared in case a disaster strikes.

Information from these organizations is presented on a screen in the command center and easily visualized on a map, giving them a complete picture of what’s happening in the city.

“We use mapping technology to create a common operating picture for our team and our partner organizations,” Pedro says. “This way, we can detect potential problems and act before they turn into emergency situations.”

Case in point: Every summer, heavy rains leave many Rio homes and streets flooded, inaccessible, and damaged. COR monitors meteorological conditions each day and keeps a close watch on flood-prone areas. When rain reaches critical levels, the team warns local officials to prepare for possible evacuation operations.


What a Difference a Map Makes

Knowing the location of a problem is key to a quick response. In Rio, geolocation has changed the way they operate:

Before Location: “If a person smelled fire, she called a local radio station, that would in turn call us. While my team searched for the fire on foot, people were in danger.”

After Location: “Using information from the original caller and the buzz on Twitter, we discern a general location of the fire. Then we can check our cameras in that area and see if local emergency departments have received similar calls. With all this information presented on one map, we can find the precise location of the fire and alert help.”

“By sharing information through a unified map interface, it’s much easier for people across organizations to come together and solve problems quickly.”

— Pedro Junqueira


Mapping the Way to a Better Future

As Rio prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, COR’s challenge is to be prepared for every hypothetical situation and snafu: From traffic accidents to weather conditions to crowd control.

“These games are very exciting for us,” says Pedro. “Our job is to handle behind-the-scenes logistics seamlessly, so that all people see are the games. Maps give us a common picture to do that.”

With the world’s eyes on Rio, Pedro hopes to not only showcase his beloved city, but also to share what his team is learning about the value of location. “I envision showing how technology, together with specialists, can improve quality of life and make any city more resilient.”

The Power of Maps

The Power of Maps

Preparedness starts with having a game plan everyone understands and can implement quickly.

Like Pedro, many government and business leaders are now tapping into the richness that real-time location data adds to more efficient operations, using maps as part of a solution to:

  1. Spot potential crises and alert citizens of possible danger
  2. Provide the public with up-to-date information, such as evacuation plans, flooded or closed roads, and shelter locations
  3. Coordinate rescue and relief efforts by seeing the status of teams, volunteers, and citizens
  4. Verify employee whereabouts in affected areas and more efficiently communicate with remote workers using location-based mobile apps

Cutting-edge geotechnology is no longer just for GIS experts. Today, corporations, small businesses, and municipal governments have access to practical map solutions that ease their day-to-day operations and help them better prepare for the unexpected.

So how do you put location to work for your organization? Read on to learn how super-innovative brands are serving customers, coordinating their teams, and responding to even the most surprising events with maps.

The Power of Maps
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Protecting Your Most Valuable Assets

During emergency situations, business leaders, too, need to know that their employees, as well as their equipment and data, are protected. While human welfare is most important, business continuity is also at stake when things go wrong.

Challenge: When flooding affected operations at Dell’s manufacturing plants in the Philippines, the company had to quickly reroute suppliers. Transitioning the operation to another location in Asia was a logical solution, but where, exactly? “Cities in Asia can be thousands of miles apart,” says Anthony Hudson, who leads Dell’s Crisis Management Program. “Understanding logistics and being able to see physical locations and data points on a map is crucial.”

Solution: Dell is currently investing in mapping tools to help them more effectively manage unexpected situations. To keep operations running as smoothly as possible, they’re turning to maps to gain a clear, up-to-date picture of what's going on. Using maps, Dell can better organize their data, get it into one place and share it via a desktop or mobile device, allowing them to make crucial, timely decisions. That's the power of geolocation. It puts company leaders in “command center” mode, no matter the situation.

As Anthony puts it, “When vital information is presented visually, it communicates information in powerful ways that words can’t. That’s why digital maps in the cloud lead to better response.”

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Dell AlertFind Enterprise Notification

Dell AlertFind Enterprise Notification

Getting on the Same Page

Every year, 223 million people are affected by natural disasters, which cause about $130 billion in damage annually.1 Thankfully, the American Red Cross is there to help.

Challenge: When the 2007 wildfires struck Southern California, half a million people were evacuated in 30 minutes. San Diego’s Red Cross was understaffed at the time, so collaborating over phone and email didn’t work well. The command center took four hours to respond to the crisis.

The organization needed a better response system to help avoid such delays in the future.

Solution: After the 2007 fires, the San Diego Red Cross built an emergency management system. By displaying dozens of layers of data on a single map, the new system gives teams a comprehensive picture of the current situation.

With Google Maps, everybody sees the same information at the same time. Our volunteers are using technology they already understand with no additional training. This allows them to do their jobs much better.”

— Laura Horner

Manager, Disaster Operations Technology, Red Cross San Diego chapter

Geotechnology isn’t just helping Red Cross workers collaborate. The general public can also pull up web-based maps to locate hospitals and shelters and other services nearby.

1 - U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
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Terrain maps

Terrain maps combined with fire monitoring help the team decide where to locate shelters.

Keeping the Lights On

During severe storms, when many businesses shut down, utility companies like Florida Power and Light (FPL) go into overdrive.

During severe storms, when many businesses shut down, utility companies like Florida Power and Light (FPL) go into overdrive. To keep people informed of power outages and repairs in-progress, utility companies need mobile apps that will work during outages.

Challenge: FPL has a big job: Keep 4.6 million residences and businesses out of the dark. That’s not an easy task in the US state most frequently hit by hurricanes.2

Solution: FPL equips each utility crew with a laptop and tablets to help them quickly access maps from anywhere. “Mapping technology provides a way for us to easily access more than 100 data sets of information about the area we serve,” says Kirk Suscella, FPL’s Distribution Business Systems Manager. “That’s more than 1 million data points.”

With maps, we can quickly locate property lines, our trucks and equipment, customer locations, and even eagle nests — all important information when investigating issues or planning work. Everything is plotted on a map, so we can easily identify and fix problems as they arise.”

— Kirk Suscella

Distribution Business Systems Manager, Florida Power and Light

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fpl employee

FPL employees aren’t the only ones who have information about outages. FPL Power Tracker is a web-based tool that uses the Google Maps API to let customers search and report outages.

Put Maps to Work for Your Business

There’s a reason people say, “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.”

We can’t control the weather or prevent every single crisis. But by planning for the unexpected, we can minimize costs.

Deploying a common operating picture is just one way leaders are making better, more informed decisions using location. For more information about how you can use maps to prepare, respond, and recover, check out these additional resources below.



The Center of Operations of Rio de Janeiro builds a smarter city with Google Maps.

Watch video


Supply chain can be impacted by weather. Monitor shipping in real time and anticipate delays with Google partner T-Sciences.

Learn more


San Diego Red Cross built an emergency management system to offer first responders a common operating picture.

Watch video


Experience being in the control center during emergency: assess the situation and respond quickly and efficiently.

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Discover how to leverage maps to plan for emergency management and city operations.

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Google Crisis Map makes disaster information easy to find, visualize, and share on any device.

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The U.S. Forest Service's National Interagency Fire Center aggregates data from different agencies and provides timely and relevant information to decision-makers, thanks to Google partner NT Concepts.

Learn more


Florida Power & Light Company uses Google Maps to help keep customers out of the dark.

Learn more


Discover how hospitals and cities can use maps to manage public health crises like epidemics or disease outbreaks.

Learn more

Or Let's talk to learn more about using Google Maps for your work.

Interested in Google Maps for your work?

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