The Human Security Taxonomy is a list designed for collection in preparation for a disaster. The focus is infrastructure awareness in support of people serviced by that infrastructure, with special attention to intersecting nodes with extended influence. The goal is locally accessible knowledge about risks and strategies related to hazards in many forms: natural, technical, political, and social.


The team creating the Human Security Taxonomy has designed it to meet requirements discovered while personally responding to more than a dozen natural and technical disasters over the past fifteen years. Those events included Banda Aceh, Katrina, Haiti, Chile, Pakistan, and China, and deploying to combat zones in three wars. In part as a result of that experience, we received a request in October of 2010 to design an international data preparedness effort dedicated to disaster risk reduction. After meetings in December 2010, Mexico was chosen as the pilot site and data sourcing research began in February 2011. The team was able to pursue item research during the first half of 2011 while simultaneously working on the development of a systems-based collection framework. That effort, now active inside Mexico, is known as the GeoClaro Project. “GeoClaro” can be translated as “Transparent Land”.


Sourcing Shortfalls

We noted early in our assessments that, despite multiple inquiries in both the public and private sector, we could not find an overarching national information analysis goal designed to ensure the safety and security of Mexican citizens in the event of a disaster. The data sources we discovered in Mexico seemed generally to be collecting against a mandate for a specific organization.


Needs Discovery

After reviewing many advisory sources (the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, UN-OCHA Disaster Response 2.0, CrisisMappers ICCM 2010, UN Global Assessment Report 2009, the World Bank’s Development Indicators, the 2009 Humanitarian Action Summit Policy Compendium, and others) it became clear that a taxonomy defining information requirements for nation-based human security was not readily available and seemed to be needed for improved nation-based disaster preparedness, response and recovery.


Taxonomy Design Research

To begin the taxonomy design we researched past global Lessons Learned archives and studied existing humanitarian data models from CiMAG, UN-ISDR, CrisisMappers, UN-OCHA and others. We also evaluated other GIS data structures and internal reports on disaster evaluations. With a draft taxonomy in hand during a readiness assessment in Mexico, we found that no one collected what our response professionals were telling us was really needed. We also saw that the economic and social cost of that lack of data might be very high.


Creation and Distribution

From that first rough taxonomy outline draft we began creating a system for ensuring the data within that taxonomy would be available when and where it was needed, in an understandable format, using mesh-based distribution to replicate the full dataset locally at robust and secure sites in high-risk areas.


First Release

The first draft was sent to expert colleagues across the civil-military boundaries of several nations and international agencies and went through six or so iterations before the current version. Now with 13 Base layers, 28 GIS layers, and more than 890 data elements, the Human Security Taxonomy is considered a fundamental tool within the Worldwide Human Geography Data Working Group and is maintained there publicly for the professional response community. It’s a living document, freely available on a Creative Commons license and designed to change with the profession. Methods for enhancement, refinement, and error-correction are built into the current version available at

We welcome feedback on any aspect of the effort at

Updated on November 7, 2019
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