SXSW conference. The epicenter – the Austin convention center where 20,000 people are gathered. People are injured, there are mass casualties, cell phone service is down and chaos ensues.
The most important thing that happens immediately after a crisis is communication, according to Brandon Brewer. Allowing emergency services to communicate and allowing the public to get important information is crucial.
“Disaster response is getting everybody together and getting information out that people need to have,” Brewer said.
- Get everyone together
- Decide on a plan of action
- Give people ways to find us
Joint communication is the idea, and it’s extremely important. It took off 50 years ago, but has changed drastically in the past decade with the increased prominence of social media.
When hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast in 2005, the main way to get information out to the public was still driven largely by the press release and the news cycle. Today, those traditional methods have been succeeded by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
During the first two minutes of the panel discussion, Anastacia Visneski, Public Information Officer for the United States Coast Guard, was able to set up a a joint information network. A Twitter account, @SXCrisis, a Facebook page, and a personnel email – all in a matter of minutes. It’s that quick.
In 2005, a press release would need to be drawn up and might not hit the air for hours, and people in crisis areas might never even get the message because of service outages.
So what if you’re at the epicenter of a disaster? You might be wondering how you could possibly get information from tweets or Facebook posts if there is no cell service. Quicker isn’t better if you never get the message. They’ve got that covered too.
With new tools available to the military, systems can be rapidly brought in to a disaster area to set up a virtual communication net allowing inter-agency communication via satellite, and even cellular networks for the public. Cloud based software is also key in helping emergency agencies communicate with each other.
Visneski says using these new tools allows for “maximum exposure, with minimum delay.”
As a citizen, it’s important to remember that to call for help, it’s still best to pick up a phone – don’t start tweeting for help. Visneski says they are listening on social channels, but the best way to get help quickly is to dial 9-1-1.
The best way to get crucial information, though, might be on Facebook or Twitter.
Do you feel safer knowing that the military and other agencies have advanced tools to help communicate during a crisis? Share your thoughts below in the comments section, or tweet me your thoughts @JaredMandel.