Twitter has proven to be one of the best resources for immediate help and information during an immediate local emergency due to earthquake, hurricane, spreading fire, earthquake, tornado, tsunami or terrorist attack.
There is a small army of tweeting members who “volunteer” their help by retweeting messages from the Red Cross and other rescue sources such as local news, police, firefighters and regular people like you and me, who are caught in the midst of the event and have valuable information that can help others.
My first experience of tweeting a message to help others was during a weekend phishing attack in mid November of 2008. The phishers knew to take advantage of the fact that the techies, who then had the largest followings, were absent on weekends I had fewer than 2,000 followers, but I discovered that we could help others by continuing to retweet the warnings about the phishing and the news.
It was an amazing experience as I watched members of the Twitter community step up and work together for a common good, just as people would do in any community that was dealing with a threat. That is when I “fell in love” with Twitter and the potential it gave to us all.
Within a week, the word “Mumbai” became a Trending Topic. This seemed weird so I clicked to check on it. Mumbai was under attack from terrorists. People on the streets in Mumbai were tweeting information as to where the gun shots were coming from. There was no time or opportunity for anyone caught on the streets of Mumbai or in the nearby buildings to turn to the radio or TV for help. By using the hashtag #Mumbai we retweeted the information as they tweeted it to us so that others on the streets knew where to go for safe shelter and what buildings and what streets to avoid. Live were saved thanks to those tweets.
How You Can You Help
Retweeting information during an emergency is super helpful even if you only have a few followers because it keeps the hashtag trending so that the people who are victims of the emergency can find it easily. More importantly, if we keep retweeting, people who are caught in the emergency can hopefully turn to Twitter and immediately see helpful information as to where to go to be safe, what hospitals are open, the roads that are open, and where to evacuate immediately. It also helps to retweet information from the victims so that first responders can know where they are.
Further, in a natural disaster power lines, radio and phone towers and reception can be compromised. By retweeting and retweeting life saving information it will appear at the top of the Twitter stream for a victim who may have just seconds of reception to see it.
During a natural catastrophe often phone and power lines go down. This compromises communication to the news media such as radio and TV so that Twitter can become the only resource that people have for any helpful news. The Twitter community needs all the volunteers possible to RT immediate information as to what hospitals are open, what roads to take, where victims need help, where shelters are, and more. And we need to keep tweeting it.
Twitter’s the Best Source for Immediate Disaster News
As I wrote this blog I was listening and glancing over to CNN where @piersmorgan and @andersoncooper are covering the horrendous tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri the previous day. At this time that night CNN was turning to Twitter and reading tweets that we were retweeting for the news, it was their best source for news.
The April 2009 earthquake in Italy killed 2009 people. As soon as Twitter received the news, we again joined together to help relay rescue information to and from the victims of this disaster. I had a few followers comment then that they had already seen a message from me which actually dealt with what hospitals people needed to go to. It became clear that some people were annoyed that I my tweets had ceased to fill them in on art, inspire them, or be otherwise interesting or entertaining.
I explained and a few joined me in retweeting valuable information. But, a few people unfollowed me because what I was tweeting was not interesting for them since they were not in Italy. Somehow, that did not seem like much of a loss for me.
How to Join In
Once you realize there is a disaster or emergency taking place at the moment look for a Trending Topic that could indicate it. Such topics have included; “Eathquake”, “Italy”, “Chile”, “Tsunami”, “Haiti” and “Joplin”.
Although it goes against Twitter TOS and is bad twitterquette not to use “RT’ or “via” to give credit to the originator of a tweet, during an emergency no one sane cares about taking credit. It is wiser and perfectly acceptable to Tweet a whole message full of information and delete the name of the originator if it fails to fit in within 140 characters.
A New Twitter Role
Generally, I am not a source for news, except in relation to the art world ad a few select causes that often involve freedom, justice or tolerance. I am an artist and founder of a new art theory of Post Conceptual Art, including a branch of that called UnGraven Image. You can see more about that at ungravenimage.com.
I am also a member of the community called Twitter. As such, people get to know me. Sometimes I share a joke or useful information that just seems helpful to others, too. I do converse in the stream. Yet, mostly I tweet about art or inspiration often based on art or other artists.
Two days ago a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri and decimated much of it, including one of its two hospitals. Coincidentally, people who live in Joplin are also members of my Twitter community. Thus, they are my neighbors. We have Twitter neighbors around the world, of all races, beliefs and ages, who joined together to retweet useful information to help the people in Joplin.
You Are Valued
I hope and pray that we never have another emergency or disaster anywhere in the world. But if one occurs please join with me and your twitter friends and neighbors to retweet and tweet helpful information. Tweets that can help save lives and prevent casualties during an emergency are the most valuable and important tweets we can send.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download (and save to disk) a free PDF copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.
Check out the limited and open edition prints in the e store.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]