OBSERVER: The CopernicusEMS Rapid Mapping component celebrates its tenth anniversary

OBSERVER: The CopernicusEMS Rapid Mapping component celebrates its tenth anniversary

OBSERVER: The CopernicusEMS Rapid Mapping component celebrates its tenth anniversary

Thu, 21/04/2022 – 11:48

On 27 April 2022, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) will mark an important anniversary. It will be ten years since its Rapid Mapping component was activated for the first time!

As part of the so-called GMES Initial Operations phase (the original name of the Copernicus component of the European Union Space Programme) CEMS was the first service to be declared fully operational, and, within its product portfolio, Rapid Mapping (RM) was the first product line to start serving users.

Timeline of key events for Copernicus paving the way to the first CEMS Rapid Mapping Activation

Since then, the service has never stopped evolving to better server its users and has become a reference for the emergency management ecosystem.

CEMS Rapid Mapping activations by year (2012-2022 to date)

An unique service with global coverage

Having been developed within the SAFER EU-funded research and development project, CEMS was and has remained unique since its launch. It has become the gold standard for science-based, quality-controlled delivery of satellite-based mapping products to support emergency managers and humanitarian actors in Europe, and across the world.

CEMS in numbers

572 Rapid Mapping Activations to date since 2012
24H/365 Continuous Service operations
More than 5,500 maps delivered
120 countries and territories covered with RM activation

Over the past decade, the Rapid Mapping component of CEMS has delivered a total of more than 5,500 maps, over 572 individual activations (as of 19 April 2022), to users from across the world, including the European Emergency Response Coordinating Centre of the European Commission, European institutions participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM), and United Nations bodies such as the World Food Programme. Overall, CEMS has delivered mapping products to cover disasters in close to 120 countries and territories!

CEMS Rapid Mapping activations global distribution (2012-2022)

In the past decade, the CEMS Rapid Mapping products have proven their usefulness in supporting disaster management and humanitarian relief for most if not all of the disasters one could remember, including: earthquakes (in Croatia, Haiti, Indonesia, Central Italy, Nepal, Turkey, and others); tsunamis (in Indonesia); wildfires (across Europe, but also in Australia, Bolivia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and even Greenland); floods (across Europe, but also in Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Uganda, Niger, Nigeria, Djibouti, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Iran, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Jordan, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras Peru, and, last but not least in the United States); industrial accidents (in Beirut, Lebanon, in Bulgaria, France, Czechia, Luxembourg, Madagascar); hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (in the Philippines with Hayan, in Haiti with Matthew and Irma, in the United States with Florence, Harvey, Irma, Matthew, and Michael, in the Caribbean and in Central America with Iota and Dorian, as well as in Mozambique with Idai and Kenneth), and volcanic eruptions (Etna in Italy, Anak Krakatau in Indonesia, Taal in the Philippines, Cumbre Vieja in La Palma, Tonga, La Soufriere in St Vincent, Fuego in Guatemala, Fogo in Cabo Verde, Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Many activations were triggered in response to humanitarian crises (in Myanmar and Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, in the Central African Republic, in Nigeria or Afghanistan). There were also activations related to landslides, mudflows, windstorms and treefalls, snowstorms; even disease outbreaks and pandemics (COVID-19, Ebola).

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service supported the disaster response efforts in Croatia after the earthquake of December 2020. The map shows the earthquake damage extent to buildings in Sisak [EMSR491 Sisak: Grading Product]

As this long list illustrates, there are no limits in the geographic reach of the CEMS Rapid Mapping and to the type of emergency situation it can tackle efficiently.

Overview of the Copernicus EMS Rapid Mapping activations in 2021


The CEMS Rapid Mapping Team has also shown its resilience. For instance at the height of the Mediterranean wildfire crisis of the summer 2021, it received 22 activations in the span of 30 days, of which 13 ran in parallel at one point in time, representing about three times the average numbers (between 5 and 6 activations on average per month) that it had managed in previous years.

Timeline of CEMS Rapid Mapping Activation in the Mediterranean region between 16 July and 11 August 2021

A tireless service

RM activities go on until the emergency is over. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, a total of 133 mapping products were delivered to assess the damage in Haiti. Following the disastrous floods of the Shannon river in Ireland, in December 2015, 107 mapping products were delivered to the Irish National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management.

As far as the “making of” is concerned, it should be noted that Rapid Mapping products are produced by a team of industrial contractors which are organised to work on a 24/7/365 basis. In fact, maps were being produced on 15 August 2021 (in particular for grading the damage from the Haiti earthquake) or on Christmas Day (in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Rai hitting the Philippines).

Copernicus Emergency Management Rapid Mapping products have become a key tool for the on-duty officers of the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre

Recognised merit

Thanks to its mapping products, between September and December 2021, CEMS documented the evolution and the extent of the lava flow emitted during the volcanic eruption in La Palma, as well as the destruction of built-up infrastructure.

Over the three months of the eruption, a record of 64 products for the same area of interest and 126 maps were delivered by the CEMS Rapid Mapping Team to inform first responders, the general public, institutions, media, and experts and help analyse the eruption’s impact on the communities and economy of La Palma.

Data visualisation showing the evolution of the lava flow, produced from superimposing the vector data of the various damage Grading Monitoring Products delivered by the CEMS Rapid Mapping Team

On 12 March 2022, CEMS was awarded the Civil Protection Medal of Merit by the Spanish Ministry of Interior, for its significant contribution to emergency response during the recent volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma. CEMS provided Spanish authorities timely and accurate geospatial information before, during, and after the eruption.

Peter Billing, Head of Unit for Security and Situational Awareness at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, received the medal on behalf of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service from H.M King Felipe VI of Spain (video of the ceremony).

Gender balance

Finally, it should be noted that the CEMS Rapid Mapping Team is a model in terms of gender balance, with many expert and scientist ladies working in the DG JRC Programme Management and in the contractor teams, which is led by a woman!

Lucia Luzietti, Head of Emergency Services and Operations at e-GEOS, lead contractor for the CEMS Rapid Mapping. Frame taken from the video of the EU Commission “EU Protects: How Europe came together to fight forest fires” (

Additional source of information

List of CEMS Rapid Mapping Activations

Thu, 21/04/2022 – 12:00

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