Ask A Cartographer

Accident Site Map

January 19 2010 | 0 comments
Categories: Symbology

I've been asked to make a map of an accident site for a family who lost a son in a Forest Service fire fighting related incident. Are there any special considerations to take into account? For example, how do I sensitively symbolize the accident site?


Mapping Center Answer:

One of the standard cartographic guidelines will serve well in this case. If you only have one feature of its kind on the map, a label is the easiest way for the map reader to identify what the feature is. Using a symbol instead requires the map reader to take two steps to understanding: 1) reading the symbol, and 2) deciphering it. With a label, the deciphering is included in the reading step. A callout can be used if the background of the map is complex enough to warrant it.

Not knowing what the accident was or where it happened, the only other suggestion I can offer is to follow standard cartographic practice. Add to the map only what is helpful to understand the situation being mapped. Eliminate anything that detracts from the central message. And try not to add bias through the type of content you add or the way that you symbolize or label it.

Although the message is sensitive, I think the most respectful way you can deliver it for the family is by being as factual and unbiased as you possibly can.

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