Vladerag's Blog

{January 14, 2010}   Twitter: the new 911

Haiti has just experienced a massive earthquake, a 7.0 on the Richter scale, the equivilant of 32 megatons of TNT force.  Haiti’s already beleagured systems have been completly annihilated, health, police, and communications.  Phone services are not working, cell or landline, and so one of the few ways to ask for help is; Twitter.

What can be considered a fun social network, an annoying waste of time, or the best way to keep in touch since the invention of words is now being put to more serious purposes.  Namely, as a 911 serivice, a journalism tool, and as a way for the government to release updates.

You see, the amount of technology that reach the internet has reached the point where, short of nuclear holocaust, it cannot be shut down.  Aid groups, citizens, government, journalists, all are pouring information into Twitter and are getting, at least it looks like, results.  Although, it might be that journalists and citizens are the only ones who are getting anything done with it.  I recently read a series of tweets where a group of friends in Haiti were able to organize and figure out if they were all o.k. and then decide a place to meet in real life. 

So is Twitter going to replace 911?  Maybe, but not too soon.  There are huge amounts of tweets every minute, and sifting through the junk (from a police perspective) and the actual, useful information might be a bit tough.  Also, the infrastructure is just not there for that to be done yet.  However some of that infrastructure might be coming soon.  In 2007, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, announced that they would be adding centers able to accept 911 texts.  Also a NENA member seemed to think that this would be the new generation of emergency response. (source: Government Technology, http://www.govtech.com/gt/127961)

The reason for this advance is to help people who are in situations where they might not be able to speak on a phone to be able to contact 911.  For instance, hostage situations or if a person cannot speak for whatever reason. 

So is Tweeting next?  Maybe.  Until then I suppose we will all just keep plugging away.


et cetera