The Tragedy at the Indiana State Fair this weekend shows us the power of smart phones when every news channel was showing the collapse of the Indiana State Fair stage from concert goers’ phones who sent them to local news channels. But a very astute observer from Indiana, Erick Deckers, has written in his blog the failure of the state authorities to use social media in this crisis. http://problogservice.com/2011/08/15/social-media-crisis-communication-lessons-learned-from-indiana-state-fair-stage-collapse/.
Having worked at a hospital in Houston, before we had Social Media, I can relate to many of the elements he brings up in his blog. When you need up to the-minute information, you depend on state authorities to give it to you, and having cell phone towers clogged with everyone trying to reach their loved ones, it would have been nice to have the state authorities updating their messages via Twitter or Facebook.
In an earthquake, emergency responders will shut down cell phones allowing the networks for emergency responders use. Getting word to family members can become difficult.
I have gone to many state accounts here in Los Angeles only to find they haven’t up dated them in months. Why have them? If you are not going to update your Twitter account with relevant information, then you need to assign a staff person to check it and update it.
People depend on Social Media in a Crisis and on Facebook for updates. When Michael Jackson died, did I go to CNN? Yes, did they have anything, no. NBC, Yes, but nothing, I then went to Twitter, and found many sources that I follow there with up to the second updates from trusted news sources not CNN or NBC, but others at the time, who had just announced his death.
With Smart Phones, we can use our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts in an instant to see any updates from local authorities. In my case, I check the Los Angeles Fire Department to see if there are any fires or accidents that might delay me in traffic around the Los Angeles area.
Updates can be sent from the scene with a Smart Phone to a Twitter feed, and many people need to use them when an emergency happens. Updates can also be sent directly to news outlets from phones as we saw this weekend with the Tragedy at the Indiana State Fair.
Social Media can be used to find relatives in a disaster to let family know you are okay, by posting an update to a Facebook or Twitter feed. This was used by survivors in Japan to let families know they were okay, when phone lines weren’t working, but somehow, the internet was working.
Social Media has transformed our world, and if you do not know how to use it, learn! Many classes are out there and now is the time to learn, because it isn’t going away.