A Social Media Reminder from the #NEearthquake #smem

"[T]ime for the E Coast to realize a 5.8 isn't a real earthquake." I was lectured on Twitter.  No doubt.

Everything is always a matter of perspective.  I had nothing to judge it by, but to me it seemed impressive.  I felt a deep sway.  I thought I might have gotten dizzy for some reason.  I stepped outside to see if a tree had fallen on my roof. 

I then returned to my desk and checked Twitter:  the north eastern U.S. had had an earthquake.  It rattled nerves more than anything else.

Still, it is a moment to reflect.  And I must confess, it impressed the heck out of me -- and I'm not easily impressed.

I naturally thought to call my family.  For about a half hour, though, the phones shared a simple message:  "All circuits are busy."  "So just send a text," another person on Twitter lectured.  Fine.  But what if I needed to make a 9-1-1 call.  "Ah, well...Welcome to our world!"

Let's begin planning for a "real" disaster - and optimizing social media

There are tales of police departments using social media to fight flash mobs and to track criminals.  Yet, for some reason, there are far fewer examples of social media being used to listen for and respond to basic emergencies.  "Well, that's what 9-`1-1 is for," I can already hear my detractors say.  But what happens, as happened in the north eastern U.S., today, when an earthquake strikes and all the phones are overloaded and 9-1-1 can't be contacted?  I know, I know, "it wasn't a real earthquake."  But that's my point, what if had been - one accompanied by massive death, injuries, destruction - and "all circuits busy."

We should be thinking now, more, about how we might put social media to work.  Connections already exist.  Numerous police departments and other local responders have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.  It's time that they have training and policies to make social media emergency management as effective a tool as it possibly can be.

Don't get me wrong, I know how much is already being done in the field of social media emergency management.  Just search #smem on Twitter and you'll find an abundance of innovators and innovation, including FEMA.  All well and good, but we can and should do more.  Training.  Policies. 

If  I sound slightly alarmist, I hope that you will excuse me.  We are products of our past.

Related readings:

"Twitter 911" - A Proposal

10 Reasons Social Media Is Important in a Real Crisis

Social Media & Emergency Response Lessons from a Pioneer

Please join me on Twitter:  @GlenGilmore and @CrisisSocMedia

Please share your comments and ideas!  Thank you!
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