Twitter 911

Many people are now using Facebook and Twitter to report emergencies or call for help, says Federal Computer Week, and they expect government response agencies to be paying attention, according to a new survey.

The American Red Cross’ “Social Media and Disasters and Emergencies” survey (pdf) of 1,058 adults indicates that 18 percent would turn to digital social media if calls to 911 were unsuccessful.

Sixty nine percent of the adults surveyed said emergency response agencies should regularly monitor their Web sites and social media networks so they can respond promptly to requests for help posted there; 74 percent said they would expect help to arrive in an hour.

If the Web users knew someone who needed emergency help, 44 percent said they would ask other people in their social network to contact appropriate authorities; 35 percent would post a request for help directly on a response agency’s Facebook page and 28 percent would send a direct Twitter message to responders.

Red Cross officials said the survey illustrates that the public is using social media for emergencies and public agencies need to be ready to respond. They have posted a document on “How to Integrate Crisis Response with Social Media” on Slide Share.

In areas such as state parks, with spotty cellphone coverage, it’s not unusual for people to be able to send instant messages or 140-character tweets when they can’t make voice calls, says David Redl of CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Gary Kee developed the Clackamas County Fire/EMS Twitter site and won a Civic Choice Award by the City of Portland.

A Code Red system, which automatically dials phones in a geo-defined area, costs about $18,000, cheaper than sirens which run between $25,000 and $50,000 apiece.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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