Friday, October 26, 2007

Use Twitter in Crises

As previously during the earthquake in Sumatra leading to tremors in Singapore, Twitter has again come of use during yet another times of crises. This time, not just by users but by emergency services.

KPBS is the local San Diego news station and they have taken on to Twitter as well during this time of fire crises in the San Diego county. Notices of road closures yesterday and today, messages to evacuated residents to return home!

Even at night it keeps burning. I can't imagine how it's like there right now, full of ash and dust. Worse than our haze. Source: sarah.c

For me in Singapore, it is the only way to get in touch with the news in San Diego where my fiance and his family lives! Most of the news in Singapore focus on the south Los Angeles county mega-homes while the lives of displaced farm workers in San Diego goes unnoticed.

I could of course sit in front of the computer all day and try to look out for depressing news as they get updated regularly. Alternatively, I could go about my work and get messages sent to my phone via Twitter. Otherwise I just check on twitter every so often together with the rest of my twitter messages online.

W's family lives near the area being evacuated. Source: Eric Byers

This is a perfect case study of how twitter can be of use in a productive and efficient manner. Twitter updates can be sent directly to subscribers' cellphones and even if power is out, you have no Internet access at home, you can still get these messages on your phone. Of course, for those with relatives in San Diego but unable to find out news on their local television network, this is also perfect. There was power outage in the beginning of the fire and I know that some of the local news websites were down. Also, twitter allows for short messages which may not fit into the scheme of things in an actual news website.

The sky over Chula Visa. I'm visiting in 2 months. I wonder if the air quality is going to be just as bad. Source: rennae_lc

Of course radio is still the preferred tool of communications in event of crises but not everybody hangs on to the radio. Twitter now proves to be the new alternative in emergency communications. It also shows how mainstream media is now integrating with web 2.0 technology for more effective communication. After all you stop drawing the line between mainstream and web media when a crisis is at hand!

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