11/11/10 191 W - + 6 - 5 Social Media as 911 Alternative

Those pesky social media channels are also being used as an alternative to dialing 911, finds an American Red Cross survey as reported in this Firehouse.com news article. In addition the popular phone call of "I've fallen and can't get up," you can transmit your distress via Facebook or Twitter. Or at least that's believed as appropriate or effective by some folks.

The Red Cross surveyed 1,058 adults in an online survey, and one in five said they'd utilize social media if they can't reach the telephone. Some would ask others to ask for help; others would touch the responders directly. Send a tweet to the emergency agency, post a request for help on the agency's Facebook page.

Key quote: "There's an expectation in the public that responders are monitoring social media and will respond to requests for help." Read the story to learn more, or see this Red Cross press release with a few slides. Perhaps our friends in emergency communications can add perspective to our ever-evolving channels of transmission.

And now, for that now-classic line in the now-classic television commercial...

From a professional perspective, the numbers associated with the Red Cross study are troubling. One of the more disturbing aspects is the number of respondents who thought that public safety agencies should be monitoring their web sites as a means of notification of incidents. A case in CT got a lot of publicity earlier this year when an injured cyclist used social media to notify her friends nationwide to call for an ambulance. In this case everything worked out for the best. However, the results may not always be so positive; especially if information is corrupted during the relay, or if the telephone number for the appropriate response agency canít be quickly located. In the future, Next Generation 9-1-1 will allow alternate means of 9-1-1 access; especially texting. However, right now there are lots of unanswered questions regarding this functionality. While it’s great for the hearing impaired, there’s currently no verification of who is calling or where they are calling from. Both are giant steps backward. Additionally, texting takes time, and commonly used txt abbreviations can muddy the waters. Call takers don’t get any background audible clues (fighting, gun shots, smoke detector sounding) and you canít read intent and/or emotion from the written word. Most industry folks I know agree that the development and use of alternate means of access will actually slow processing times and require additional personnel. All of these technologies (and more) will eventually make their way into every corner of our lives Ė 9-1-1 included. A jumpstart of sorts came in October when the President signed The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 into law. One entire section of this act deals with new methods of access to public safety.
RWECC - 11/12/10 - 09:40

Good info, RWECC. The public has a LOT of expectations that, well, are not reasonable.

“There’s an expectation in the public that responders are monitoring social media and will respond to requests for help.”

There are a lot more expectations than that. They expect the 9-1-1 call taker to just be able to flash up a picture of their house, with a Google map (or the like) straight to it. They expect that we can do the same thing with the computers in our trucks. They think that just because all of that stuff is on CSI or NCIS, we must have it too.
DJ - 11/13/10 - 08:10

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

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