UC in the Emergency Management World of E911
What do Bebo, Cyworld Facebook, and Xanga all have in common? All are currently on a list of major active social networking websites1. Cyworld, a popular social networking site in Korea, has 27,000,000 registered users while Bebo, an acronym for Blog Early, Blog Often, has 117,000,000 registered users ranking it 1,0602 according to Global Alexa, a web information company owned by Amazon. Based on statistics from Facebook there are more than 500,000,000 active users with over 50% of the active users logging on the Facebook on any given day3.
There is no question; Social Media (SM) has changed the way we communicate and the users that Social Networking (SN) sites are attracting is growing. This is significant when there is an emergency and a 911 call should be made. An American Red Cross survey released in August of this year, shows many web users would turn to social media to seek help.
“The online survey asked 1,058 adults about their use of social media sites in emergency situations. It found that if they needed help and couldn’t reach 9-1-1, one in five would try to contact responders through a digital means such as e-mail, websites or social media. If web users knew of someone else who needed help, 44 percent would ask other people in their social network to contact 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.”
"The first and best choice for anyone in an emergency situation is to call 911," said Gail McGovern, American Red Cross president and CEO, in a statement. "But when phone lines are down or the 911 system is overwhelmed, we know that people will be persistent in their quest for help and use social media for that purpose."4
Two British mountaineers who found themselves trapped on Mont Blanc in August 2010. The solution they used was to send a text from the top of Europe’s highest mountain to a friend who was over 800 miles away, who was able to contact officials to make the rescue.5
In Morris County, NJ, the county Office of Emergency management will be using Facebook and Twitter to issue notifications and warnings to residents for each of the county’s 39 towns.6
In a mini triathlon, Leigh Fazzina crashed and although was unable to walk she sent a tweet to her “followers.” “I've had a serious injury and NEED Help!" she typed. "Can someone please call Winding Trails in Farmington, CT tell them I'm stuck bike crash in woods.”7
When disasters strike SM is very often the first point of contact. When the earthquake ravaged Haiti, #Haiti very quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter. Some Haitians who were caught underneath the rubble even used SM, as a way of communication.
All of this means that communications platforms and 911 providers will need to be able to integrate SM and SN. For example, in a recent new product announcement Avaya Flare will support Twitter, Facebook and Skype with the ability to add additional Social Networking capabilities.
This a good start, but to be successful the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) network will need some significant upgrades. Some PSAP’s have upgraded in order to be able to accommodate E911 or Enhanced 911 and some work has already started on NG911 or Next Generation 911 in some jurisdictions. It takes time, money and the political will to make the changes necessary, but if 911, E991 and NG911 are to embrace Social Media and Social Networking, changes are needed.
- List of social networking websites Wikipedia
- About Bebo.com
- Facebook statistics
- Web Users Increasingly Rely on Social Media to Seek Help in a Disaster
- Two British mountaineers trapped on Mont Blanc call for help... by texting a friend 800 miles away
- Emergency Alert System in Morris County
- 'NEED Help!': Biker's Twitter followers call for ambulance