I’ve Fallen and I’m Going to Tweet

When I read the article “Tweeting an Ethos” by Bowden, I couldn’t help but think of the early 1990’s Life Call commercial of the grandma laying on the floor of her bathroom.  While laying next to the tub, Mrs. Fletcher hits the button around her neck and the receiver by her phone turns on.  The guy at Life Call answers and asks what her emergency is, she says “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.  Parodies, songs, and spoofs ensue and good times are had by all.  What if Mrs. Fletcher hit a button and a tweet went out?  Would this work?  Is it more or less effective than trying to yell to the voice box?

Regardless of Mrs. Fletcher’s options to make her emergency known, the topic of using social media during emergencies seems like a legitimate future.  If I think about what I currently have at my disposal to get updates on a severe weather event, there are only a few options.  There is the news, the emergency broadcast system on both TV and the radio, and there are the sirens outside.  If the power goes out, the TV is not an option, the radio is gone without a battery backup option, and the sirens warn, but carry no other information.  As long as your phone has batteries, and even if the power goes out, your vehicle can always charge the phone, you are linked to a stream of information.  The only problem would be how to sift through all of the information and get to what pertains to you.

In the article, they broke down different categories of tweets for Hurricane Irene.  The question I have is how would you get to the information that helped you most at the moment that you needed it.  Its nice to have road closures tweeted, but how many roads were closed?  I would guess more than a few.  Its wonderful to be able to donate or help out, but how would you know where to go (assuming it was time sensitive)?  Twitter and the tweeters may have already figured this out, but it would seem necessary to put something a little more specific than #hurricaneirene on your tweet.  For a midwest weather event, would it make sense to go by county, city, neighborhood, or could you break it down by street?  Are there enough people on Twitter to give an accurate and helpful account to all areas?

#stpaultornado

#eaststpaultornado

#lowertowntornado

#billysgrandavetornado

If I remember correctly, most people in this class don’t have twitter.  If your city tweeted weather events, road closures, or news that would impact the city’s citizens, would you be more apt to subscribe and set up a Twitter account?  If they used Facebook, would that make a difference?

Posted on November 9, 2014, in Social Media and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You pose a good question, Oliver. One thought is that part of social media’s appeal is its customization, the ability to add hashtags to really random things (ex/#whetherweather or something, and its fluidity and fad-ish trends. So could a hashtag be sustainable for emergencies? Possibly, as there’s the long-lasting #tbt that I see every Thursday. For the National Preparedness Month, FEMA included sample tweets in their communication plan: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1408033424313-d42b070b8192950cb9353b9e61a53d28/NPM%20Digital%20Toolkit_2014_508pass.pdf.

    I think your overarching question is whether we can organize social media. And yes, I think it’s possible.

  2. I think an emergency Tweet or Facebook system in a city like my hometown of Philadelphia would be a disaster. Philadelphians are notorious for having attitudes and disregarding authority so I think these sorts of Tweets would go largely unnoticed or disbelieved. I would probably follow the Twitter feed or Facebook page but I would not use it as my sole of primary source of information.

  3. natashajmceachin

    My local television station actually uses Twitter and has a Facebook page, but I honestly don’t bother checking them. I think things of this nature do better with mobile apps that send notifications directly to your phone. I loved your Life Alert comparison though 🙂

  4. As someone who lost her childhood home in Hurricane Katrina, I wish Twitter had been actively used back in 2005. Text messaging saved some people, but for the most part locals who had evacuated were stuck listening to talking heads like Geraldo and Shepherd Smith who didn’t know anything about what was happening beyond the Superdome.

    In just a couple years, Twitter has helped people through many disasters. See http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-11/how-twitter-covered-the-queensland-floods/3767166 and one the most seminal works: http://attw.org/publications/book-series/social-media-disaster-response

    If you trust your Twitter network, you’ll trust them through times of crisis, but that means putting in the effort to follow the right people and build those relationships.

  5. When I was a contractor in Alaska, I helped establish a Twitter presence for the local utility company. The main goal was to provide information on electricity outages and tips on how to conserve energy.

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