Cartographic communication through crisis maps takes place in a unique environment characterised by the immediate risks of considerable loss and stress. Many such maps are designed by practitioners with limited resources, pressured for time, and who often fail to pay the necessary attention to map graphics. This can reduce map clarity and make orientation to and understanding of essential crisis information difficult. To identify the most frequent shortcomings that may compromise the interpretation of depicted objects, phenomena presented, and actions required, we assessed the map graphics of 106 maps specifically designed for communication and action in crises. The results showed that they were often visually overloaded. Crisis data were not conveyed by appropriate cartographic representations, and due to the inappropriate use of visual variables, the associative and selective properties of cartographic symbols were overlooked, and their ordered and quantitative features ignored. The use of colour was often not adapted to conventional visual language, and colour symbolism was not always taken into account. The cartographic symbols used were often incomprehensible, illegible, ambiguous, and unclassified, and they lacked symbolism and hierarchical organisation. The article aims to address these problems by proposing guidelines which do not require much time or expertise, but which would ensure that cartographically correct crisis maps are well designed. Objects, phenomena or actions specific to crisis management would be indicated using appropriate map graphics and their importance highlighted, so as to make interpretation easier for all participants in a crisis event, and so facilitate crisis communication and response.
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