If we only had one technology related wish for 2008 it would be that every mariner watched this video. Reminder: This is important people!
While micro-messaging service Twitter may be one of the best tools for citizen reporting in emergencies such as the Southern California wildfires, the service’s real usefulness is its ability to get messages to users’ friends and family and provide evacuation updates — even when cell networks are overloaded, according to homeland security consultant W. David Stephenson.
As important as the updates you wrote about, they’re nowhere near as important as using Twitter to let your family know you’re ok (instead of cell calls, which every time they’re used in disasters end up crashing the network — and don’t get through, either): because they’re packet based, they’re cued up until they can route around obstacles or gaps in the network, and the 140-character limit means they take up a tiny amount of bandwidth, leaving it for those who need it most.
Even cooler, Stephenson tells THREAT LEVEL, are the Red Cross’s Twitter channels.
* The redcross channel lets them push information during a mass evacuation. Since cellphone customers can sign up for Twitter ‘on the fly,’ they will encourage evacuees to text ‘FOLLOW REDCROSS’ to 40404, and sign up for updates. The messages will include information about where the shelters are, distribution sites, and other contact info.
* The safeandwell channel is used more for inbound communication. Those who text ‘FOLLOW SAFEANDWELL’ to 40404 will automatically be followed back. That means they can send their private information as a Direct Message to the American Red Cross. (‘D SAFEANDWELL Larry Melman, 205-xxx-xxxx, 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Bay Minette, is safe in a shelter.’) That maintains the privacy of the individual, and also serves to funnel the information to a centralized database.
Stephenson shows how to use Twitter in emergencies in this episode of his video series 21st Century Disaster Tips You Won’t Hear From Officials:
Thanks to Jesse Robbins for the find.