CATMonitor is a free website for monitoring and building awareness about earthquake and flood risk among the general public. Using an interactive website, CATMonitor's goal is to enable homeowners, businesses and government agencies to visualize and contribute to the understanding and measurement of risk for their homes, businesses, government facilities and communities.



What is Geocoding?

Geocoding is the process of assigning building coordinates (expressed as latitude and longitude) to address information such as house number, street name, and postal code.

How does CATMonitor geocode an address?

CATMonitor geocodes a building address as part of the Home and Business risk analysis process. The reason for doing this is that it allows the public to view the location of individual buildings relative to seismic and flood hazard zones. The following steps are followed to locate an address:

  1. User enters an address into the address entry screen
  2. Once the address is entered, a remote access API from Bing Maps (a Microsoft app) is used to geocode the location. Depending on the level of sophistication available within the geocoding service for that area, this process may or may not yield precise results. The location may, for example, be at the centroid of a postcode or at the center of a municipality, or it may be positioned at an incorrect location along a street segment. Again, the reason for imprecise positioning is that the geocoding service may only offer coarse data or information for that area.
  3. A map is displayed to the user, containing a marker indicating the location returned from the Bing geocoding service. The user reviews and can accept the location manually using the navigation features of the map interface and the imagery and street maps provided through Bing. If the user is able to clearly see that the marker location returned from Bing geocoder is incorrect, the user can move the marker to the correct location and override the coordinates that were initially provided by CATMonitor.
  4. A final latitude and longitude (coordinates) is then saved with that address location.

Building Attributes For Risk Analysis

What are the different building attributes used in CATMonitor?

Construction Type


Masonry is a common construction material for typical single-family residences and agricultural structures within the South East European region. Masonry construction consists of individual units, typically made of stone, solid brick, or hollow unit concrete blocks that are laid and bound together by mortar. Older structures will typically be unreinforced stone or brick masonry with roofs coverings of tile, stone or wood. Confined masonry, typically found in newer structures, is constructed of masonry units confined within a reinforced-concrete frame. Concrete frames are poured after the masonry walls are constructed.

Reinforced Concrete

Reinforced-concrete (RC) structures are typically seen in general commercial buildings and in apartments/condos. Structural systems will be either concrete moment frames, concrete frames with masonry infill, or shear walls that are designed to resist lateral loads. Reinforced-concrete frames with masonry infill should not be confused with confined masonry. With confined masonry, the masonry is first stacked and the concrete frame is poured. The process is reversed for RC frames with masonry infill. With confined masonry, the masonry walls carry the seismic load, whereas lateral forces are resisted by the reinforced-concrete frame when it has masonry infill.

Other Construction Types: Wood Frame, Steel and Light metal

Wood-frame, steel and light-metal buildings account for a small percentage of all structures within the Balkans.

Single-family, wood-frame construction consists of wooden structures (i.e., log cabins and traditional/modern homes). Roofs are typically sloped and thatched in material native to the land or with wood, asphalt or other various materials used for the shingles. This type of construction will typically appear in rural areas.

Steel and light-metal structures are rare and typically found in industrial areas.

Year Built or Building Age

Year built or building age is typically used to identify the building code that was used to design and construct the building. The building age categories used in the earthquake model for the Balkan Region reflect the evolution of building codes and construction practices in each modeled country.

Typically, older buildings are more vulnerable to earthquake damage, as many were built without fully accounting for the region’s seismicity or modern seismic construction practices (e.g., the use of unreinforced masonry). The impact of year built on vulnerability has been demonstrated during historical events. For example, during the 1963 earthquake in Skopje, Macedonia, almost the entire building stock of the capital was significantly damaged or destroyed. A new seismic building code was implemented in 1964 and subsequent earthquakes in the region have been relatively less destructive.

Number of Stories

Number of stories is strongly tied to building construction types. Wood construction generally includes single-family houses, typically single or two-story. Stone masonry construction typically includes single-family houses, frequently 1 to 2 stories high and seldom three or four stories high. Brick masonry construction generally includes houses and buildings, not over three stories. The strengthened masonry building class generally includes houses and buildings, not over three stories. Reinforced concrete construction includes multi-story houses or apartments (could go up to 9 stories or higher). Steel frame construction is less common in the Balkan Region and is typically reserved for large commercial and industrial buildings. Light metal construction is used for industrial or manufacturing buildings, and typically includes light-steel frame one to two stories tall.

Useable floor surface

The size of usable floor area in a building is usually measured in square meters. Floor area is commonly used to calculate repair or replacement costs for damaged buildings.

Ground Floor Elevation

The elevation of a building’s ground floor relative to ground level or grade is used to measure susceptibility to flood damage or effects.

Presence of Basement

Any area of the building, including any sunken room or sunken portion of a room, having its floor below ground level (subgrade) on all sides.

What is my building construction type?

Photographs in CATMonitor are intended to help you identify your particular building type. If you have access to the structural plans of the building, that will also help you identify the construction type.

Masonry buildings use bricks, concrete blocks, stones, or hollow clay tile walls to resist lateral loads. Some masonry buildings may have floors constructed of concrete, wood or a combination of concrete and hollow clay tiles. Masonry is a common construction type for residential structures. Users may be able to identify the masonry brick, stone or clay tile directly if no plaster has been applied to the walls.

Reinforced-concrete buildings are buildings with frames and/or walls constructed of concrete. They may have walls made of hollow clay tiles built between concrete columns (masonry infill), or additional earthquake-resistant features such as “shear walls,” which are reinforced-concrete walls designed to resist lateral loads. Reinforced- concrete buildings are typically newer, especially in the Tirana- Durrës area, and are taller than structures constructed of masonry. Most of the larger buildings built after 1965 are reinforced-concrete buildings.

I do not know my exact building age- what should I do?

Building age or year of construction is an important factor in estimating earthquake risk. It is not necessary to know the exact age, but the approximate age or era of construction (to estimate age) is an important parameter in CATMonitor. Sometimes this information can be obtained by talking with local engineers or with government planning departments. If your building was recently renovated, you should provide that information as your year built.

How do I calculate useable floor surface?

If you have building plans for your structure, you will be able to find the dimensions of your building and possibly floor surface information. If you do not have this information, calculating the overall floor surface of a house may be done (approximately) by measuring the lengths of exterior walls. The area of the garage (if present) should be subtracted from this number. If the building has multiple levels, you should calculate the surface area of each floor and then add them up to get the total building floor area.

What is my Ground Floor Elevation?

An approximate elevation in centimeters or meters can be estimated by measuring the difference between the horizontal plane of the top of the ground floor slab (first floor elevation) and the vertical distance to the finished grade (exterior elevation). A professional surveyor can determine this elevation more accurately for insurance purposes.

Natural Hazards

What are the sources of data presented in the Natural Hazards section?

The following sources are used:

  • AIR-worldwide (a risk modeling company) and Europa Re’s proprietary and scientifically-developed hazard data for South East European countries.

    This data is accessible through the Natural Hazards -> Maps -> Earthquake 475-year Peak Ground Acceleration or Flood: 1000-year Loss Maps

  • United States Geological Survey Shakemaps data archive (URL:

    For Albania, 5 maps are included:

    • 1979 Shkodra Earthquake, Mw7.0
    • 1988 Albania Earthquake — Tirana & Ndroq & Ulcinj, Bar — Mw5.9
    • 1982 Albania Earthquake — Fier & Berat & Lushnje — Mw5.6
    • 2004 Albania Earthquake — Leskoviku — Mw5.4
    • 2009 Albania Earthquake — Dibér & Bulqiza District Gjorice & Shupnze & Peshkopia — Mw5.6

    For Macedonia, 5 maps are included:

    • 1931 Valandovo Earthquake, Mw6.7
    • 1963 Skopje Earthquake, Mw6.2
    • 1979 Montenegro Earthquake, Mw7
    • 1990 Gevgelija Earthquake, Mw5.6
    • 1994 Bitola Earthquake, Mw5.2

    And for Serbia, 6 maps are included:

    • 1979 Montenegro Earthquake, Mw7
    • 1980 Serbia Earthquake — Mt Kopaonik & Aleksandrovac & Brus & Kursumlija & Raska — Mw5.9
    • 1984 Serbia Earthquake — Brus & Kopaonik — Mw5.1
    • 1987 Serbia Earthquake — Kraljevo — Mw5.1
    • 1998 Serbia Earthquake — Belgrade Valjevo area — Mw5.5
    • 2010 Serbia Earthquake — Kraljevo — Mw5.5
  • Various Reports

    • Synthesis of the data from the five historic earthquakes by Roberta Apostolska (2012)

      This data is accessible through the Natural Hazards -> Historic Events -> Earthquake

Disaster Alerts

What are the sources of data presented in the Disaster Alerts section?

CATMonitor currently “pulls” earthquake alerts automatically from two major sources: European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) and United States Geological Survey (USGS). The map and lists show events which have been located by the EMSC and USGS and contributing agencies (including Albanian Seismic Survey, Seismological Survey of Serbia, and Macedonian Seismological Observatory) within the last several days and weeks. These lists, however, may be incomplete; that is, they may not include all events over M4.5. Because of this, there will be differences when you compare data from local country agencies such as the Institute of GeoSciences, Energy, Water and Environment (IGEWE) in the Albania list and the lists from USGS or EMSC. Country specific agencies such as IGEWE report smaller-sized earthquakes on (a daily basis) that possibly are not contained in the EMSC or the USGS feeds in CATMonitor. Users who are interested in reviewing local information could do so by visiting country specific sites. Links to country sites have been included in CATMonitor.

In most cases, earthquakes occurring worldwide with a magnitude greater than M5.0 are located and reported by USGS in 30 minutes or less. Earthquakes less than M5.0 are typically picked up and reported quickly if they have caused significant damage or are widely felt. Earthquakes around M5.0 usually do not cause significant damage.

For flood, information provided by Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) is distributed through the CATMonitor system. GDACS is a repository of information about many types of disaster alerts, including flood events. The GDACS feed contains basic information about each event, such as the coordinates (or centroid) of the event and the severity of the event. Each RSS item is also linked back to a page at the GDACS site that contains additional information about the event, including a list of resource information.

Community Maps

What is the goal of the community section?

The Community Maps in CATMonitor are designed to provide a “crowdsourcing” tool for building inventory generation and disaster response for the South East European countries. Developed on an online mapping platform, the community maps crowdsourcing tools in CATMonitor will enable a user to create an inventory of schools, hospitals and other public buildings using remotely-sensed imagery that will help both government and insurers effectively prepare and respond to large disasters.

The community section is designed to harness the public’s willingness to assist communities affected by natural disasters. In the wake of a large disaster, the maps in CATMonitor are configured to display high-resolution satellite imagery depicting post-disaster scenes of the affected areas. The ability to monitor affected regions using satellite imagery will make it possible for a large community of concerned volunteers to contribute maps and reports that will provide valuable information to first responders assisting in aid and reconstruction efforts, even when those volunteers are not physically located in the affected area.

The specific objectives of the crowdsourcing module include:

  • Mapping community schools and hospitals: include building information on structural type, number of stories, year built and other attributes necessary for risk analysis
  • Reporting damage to community buildings including schools and hospitals: Counting the number of collapsed, severely damaged buildings

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new phenomenon that allows a community of online volunteers to generate large and fairly accurate databases on a particular events or issues. Using standard protocols, users are asked to provide their opinions or observations on things like “is this building damaged” after a large disaster, or “how many students currently attend this school” or “how many stories does this building have?” The reason for crowdsourcing is that this process allows many individuals to contribute to a particular task, thus expediting the assessment. Furthermore, by relying on the ability of humans to identify or recognize specific conditions, complex assessments can be performed more accurately than using computers that would have be trained and in many cases, would miss subtle clues that would describe a particular condition or situation. Crowdsourcing has been effectively used to identify collapsed buildings after major earthquakes, e.g., 2010 Haiti earthquake, 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami.

How can the online “crowd” help to develop community inventory or conduct damage analysis?

The users of CATMonitor or the “crowd” can contribute by helping to generate a database on schools and hospitals in their community that will assist with pre-disaster planning and post-disaster response activities.

In a pre-disaster setting, the users of CATMonitor will “tag” community buildings that they see on satellite imagery (which is provided within CATMonitor) with new or additional information. In certain cases where a user has information about a school or hospital that is not already included in the system, they would locate the building in CATMonitor and enrich the current dataset with this new local information.

The CATMonitor Community function can also gather input on the same asset (e.g., school or hospital) from multiple users and based on all of this information CATMonitor will display the answers with the highest level of agreement among users. An example would be “this school has XXX number of students attending.”

In a post-disaster setting, users will tag buildings (existing buildings or new ones that they have identified) and note if these buildings have “no damage”, have “collapsed”, have been “severely damaged”, or “cannot determine any damage” from the imagery provided. High-resolution post-event scenes will be available on the CATMonitor Platform for making such determinations. CATMonitor also enables users to submit photographs taken in the field that capture damage information that can be uploaded to the CATMonitor platform.

Why should I participate in this Crowdsourced Damage Assessment?

Past events have clearly indicated that rapid assessment of the extent of damage caused a large disaster can significantly improve decision-making by identifying those areas or facilities that have been most seriously affected and may require immediate response. Typically, these damage assessments, when completed using traditional methods such as computer modeling, will have great uncertainties thus hampering the confidence that decision-makers will have in deploying limited or scarce resources. By joining the crowdsourced community, you can directly affect this response.

What information is collected from users in the community section?

For the Schools and Hospitals and other community assets, users are requested to provide the following information:

  • Name and Address
  • Number of Students or Patients/Beds
  • Construction type
  • Number of Stories
  • Year built
  • Elevation of ground floor
  • Presence of basement
  • Useable floor surface in square meters
  • Photographs

For Damage Analysis:

  • Collapsed
  • Severe Damage
  • No Damage
  • Cannot Determine
  • Notes
  • Photographs

What if a user does not have information on one or more of the building attributes such as construction type, year built, etc?

In calculating a risk score, CATMonitor must have certain data in order to complete that assessment. If that information is not provided or not available, a message is returned back to the user indicating that this request (i.e., risk score) cannot be completed. A user should do his/her best to complete all required data fields. Ample guidelines are provided within the CATMonitor platform to identify building type, year built and other important parameters. If the user is still unable to complete this information, it is recommended that the services of a local engineer or contractor be sought to help in this assessment.

How does one get notified of new disaster event where they can directly help with a damage assessment?

A Catmonitor subscriber who has registered and provides a valid email ids during registration process will be notified when of a major disaster occurs through the “Alert” notification process.

When a disaster is ongoing, a link will be clearly marked on the homepage of CATMonitor that provides access to an ongoing disaster response. Users will be able to login and tag buildings and provide photographs to support any damage analysis.

How does the damage tagging for buildings work?

If a user sees a damaged building, he/she can mark it by selecting the appropriate button provided within the CATMonitor platform. The public can use the information below as a guide in assigning building damage grades. The damage grade descriptions are based on the European Macroseismic Scale (EMS-98). This scale was created for ground survey teams to perform a rapid damage analysis of areas affected by a seismic event. The damage descriptions for higher damage grades (“Severely damaged” and “Collapsed”) are transferrable for use with remote sensing imagery. Note that if you are assigning a damage grade using field photos (and not satellite imagery), you can assign – to the best of your knowledge – damage grades of minor, moderate, or major to your building.

Damage Grade Descriptions (drawings are taken directly from EMS-98)

Minor: Damage will be light, including easily repairable architectural damage such as cracking and peeling of plaster. Possible hair-line cracks in very few walls, with small amounts of debris surrounding the structure.

Minor House
Minor Overhead

Moderate: Building will likely include cracking of walls, cracking of columns, and architectural damage. Debris will be present around the structure immediately following the event. For significant cracking, an engineer may be required to ensure that damage to the main structural system has not occurred.

Moderate House
Moderate Overhead

Major: Major damage will be obvious even to non-engineers. Major portions of walls will have fallen; cracks that run diagonally will be everywhere on the sides of buildings; debris will be present around the structure and cracking in the roof may also be present.

Major House
Major Overhead

Severe Damage: Portions of the building will have partial collapses. Significant debris may be surrounding the structure immediately following the event. Large cracks may be present in the roof diaphragm, and partial wall collapses are evident by sagging roof lines.

Severe House
Severe Overhead
Severe Close

Collapse: Building is likely severely damaged and will likely collapse partially or completely. Heavy amounts of debris are surrounding the structure. Rooflines are no longer straight and collapse of exterior walls is evident.

Collapse House
Collapse Overhead
Collapse Close

How will the data be used?

Europa Re will collect and maintain this data in a secure manner. Once enough information is collected, Europa Re plans to run a risk assessment survey of all schools and hospitals portfolio and provide risk ranking summaries of the buildings which can then be shared with the public and the government.