The research focuses on guiding the affected population towards a safe location in a disaster area by utilizing their self-help capacity with prevalent mobile technology. In contrast to the traditional centralized information management systems for disaster response, this research proposes a decen- tralized computer-supported management system in which affected people can lead themselves to safety and simultaneously serve as field sensors that share information about the disaster situation. A literature study together with contextual inquiries (field observations) were first conducted to analyse and identify existing problematic areas in order to envision a feasible, efficient and effective system. Based on literature from the field of disaster sociology and humanitarian operation experience, it was clear that the affected people in a disaster are not simply helpless victims; instead, they consist of capable human beings who tend to act rationally and proactively in a united and helpful manner. In times of collective stress, they are even able to creatively use whatever means of technology are at hand. This group forms the majority of the population that is affected by a disaster. They are distributed over the disaster area and witness the disaster first hand. As a result, these individuals form a massive potential resource for collecting first hand knowledge about the disaster. Field observations indicated that tailored mobile navigation support is lacking. Likewise, situation map-map- ping support has appeared to be limited, fragmented, and funnelled to one “plotter”. The literature and field observations showed that there is a need for (1) navigation support of the affected people, (2) collaborative map-making support, and (3) the integration of these support functions into one informa- tion system to establish a harmonized, effective, and safe, disaster response. As part of the research, prototypes of these two support functions and the integrated system were developed and tested in both controlled environments and out in the field. Major disaster events can significantly change an area, render earlier geo- graphical data obsolete, and make damaged infrastructure hazardous to the affected people. In order to minimize public exposure to such dangerous conditions, which prevail in disaster areas, the affected people need to be guided to a safer location. Thus, a navigation system that provides sufficient and flexible guidance given the altered environment in the disaster area is critical in these situations. The first study was a field experiment, tested a handheld navigation solu- tion that pointed toward the direction of a destination and elementary navi- gational cues. The results suggested that a rudimentary navigation cue in the form of an arrow was sufficient to guide an individual towards a specific destination. Moreover, additional navigation cues such as the distance or the time to a destination gave additional support by making it easier for a person to follow the guidance. However, in order to provide adequate navigational support, an up-to-date presentation of the post-disaster situation is desirable. Especially as a map is usually needed to represent complex situations. For example, during the field observations of USAR.nl in the Czech Republic, the rescuers sketched and updated a map (drawn on the wall) with a spray can to represent the rescue situation and their activity outcomes over time. The command post was informed about the situation however by audio (tel- ephone) communication. In a disaster with widespread damage, the disaster situation needs to be rapidly assessed. However, the traditional centralized mechanism of gathering this kind of information is regarded as inefficient and can result in an inaccurate and outdated situation map. These ineffi- ciencies stem from: (1) the use of an unsuitable communication modality to relay spatial information (e.g. audio), (2) limited emergency resources that collect this kind of information, and (3) the hierarchical and chain report- ing structure in the organization of the map-making process. To overcome these inefficiencies, this research also focuses on a distributed approach that utilizes the affected people for collecting situation data in the field and using additional modalities of communication. This led to the second study, which investigated the construction of a shared situation map using a collaborative mechanism. This study was conducted in a controlled laboratory environment. The first results demonstrated that if the contribution from each individual is not balanced then collaborative map-making can result in a joint map that is worse than the underlying in- dividual maps. Based on this result, a method of explicitly showing confi- dence information was prototyped in the subsequent experiment. The results showed that the quantity and quality of the information in the collaborative maps was better than the individual maps. It was concluded that a visual shared map can complement the auditory communication during situation map-making and that explicitly rating objects and events in the map with a confidence level significantly enhanced the discussion process. Finally, the third empirical study was an extensive controlled field study where Delft was converted into a disaster playground. Several participants played simultaneously different roles (the affected people and the operator) located at multiple locations (in the field and in the information center) while using multiple devices (mobile phone, desktop computer) and applications (mobile client, server, and simulation). The aim of this study was to compare the proposed system with the traditional centralized system. The result of this study demonstrated that the proposed system was superior in (1) guiding the affected people safely to their destination, (2) helping operators in achiev- ing a higher situational awareness, and (3) lowering operator workload. To conclude, this research proposes a participatory distributed mechanism which involves the affected people to improve the disaster response. The system harvests the capabilities of the affected people as distributed active sensors for assessing disaster situations. In this way, they can help them- selves to safety while helping to rapidly construct a clear image of the dis- aster without burdening the already overwhelmed rescue services. The study showed that this mechanism might reduce the workload of the disaster re- sponders and may improve the effectiveness of the disaster response process. With better situational awareness of the disaster area, humanitarian aid and rescue activities can be conducted more effectively and victims can be saved faster than before. Thus, the proposed system in this thesis can form the foundation of an efficient next generation disaster response system.