Boston PD, that first day, found social media to be SUCH a powerful force, this is the radio call they made while the bomb squad searched the hundreds of bags left all around the finish line.
This tweet was sent mere minutes after the arrest of the second suspect in the Boston bombings. Approved on-site by tweeting Deputy Commissioner John Daley it demonstrates how quickly information moves these days.
And you can see how this worked from a mobile perspective. That yellow line on the left chart is when ConEd cut the power to lower Manhattan, you can see the huge spike in homes without power. The red arrow on the right chart is pointing at the exact same moment in time on the 29th. When the power went out, people didn’t stop using social media, in fact, they used it more! People got on their phones and kept right on tweeting away.
Social media isn’t only useful for massive, huge, world-changing disasters, y’know. A couple of weeks ago, my hometown made the national news due to a botched demolition that fell into an active Salvation Army store. Six people ended up dying, with more than a dozen others getting transported to hospitals. The fire department, being the coordinators of PA Task Force 1, the local Urban Search and Rescue team, was incident commander. Police maintained the scene. Emergency management and Red Cross supported the responders and response. The Health Department was not, and should not, have been called in. Because things were so busy for those other agencies, the social media aspect of the response ended up not happening, despite massive media interest and posting on social media networks, especially Twitter.
I got the call from our Commissioner’s Office to start retweeting the response agencies posts and sharing information updates as they were approved for release. Not as part of a JIC, but just as a way to broaden the scope of the City’s public information releases. The problem was that I was returning from a conference in Raleigh, North Carolina and was watching what was going on on CNN in the airport bar! So I pulled out my trusty iphone, connected to a power source and went to work. We retweeted every response agency’s tweet. We looked for elucidating information and diagrams. We gave updates on public transit changes. We communicated the boundaries of the response and asked folks to stay away to the responders could do their work. At one point, our account name was the second-highest trending term on Twitter in Philadelphia. We became the single, best source for official information release from a City agency. Not because we were specially placed in a JIC or because we were privy to inside information. It’s because I had a few hours to kill in an airport bar and a phone. That’s the power of social media today in emergencies.
Twitter faster than earthquakes video
Social Media and Public Health
and Public Health
Philadelphia Department of Public Health