From Emergency Management to Law Enforcement, Twitter is Changing the Face of Incident Management and Disaster Response – Hashtag by Hashtag

As Twitter celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, releasing a timeline of its most memorable moments, we’ve all witnessed how the social media giant has changed the world – hashtag-by-hashtag. With its 320 million active users pounding out 140-character limit messages each month, there’s no doubt that Twitter has ramped up communications to unimaginable levels.tweets

Twitter has changed the way we monitor disasters, solve crimes, watch sports, consume news, build brands and connect with our audiences at an emotional level.

In the law enforcement community, Twitter is helping to solve crimes and prevent incidents from becoming mass casualty events.  Not only does social media humanize the force, it provides a platform for police officers to share information and quickly respond to tips from civilians.

When it comes to emergency management, social media monitoring with Twitter is a key ingredient to situational awareness during disasters. Having access to real-time information from eyewitnesses at the scene helps incident commanders/emergency managers make the right decisions – at the right time –when deploying strategic resources.

That is why we’ve included Twitter feeds within Mission Manager’s robust mapping tools. As part of our geo-coded social media monitoring capabilities, Mission Manager enables administrators to monitor tweets Mission Manager Twitter screenin real time, based on key words and related hashtags, to determine who is saying what within an area of interest.  Mission Manager’s cloud-based incident management system also allows you to capture the data and images from the Twitter feeds and quickly export the data for reports.

Revolutionizing Emergency Management with Tweets

In addition to situational awareness, Twitter has eased information bottleneck for agencies during emergencies and ensures a consistent flow of information to the public. It allows emergency managers to interact with the public and get a second-by-second account of what’s happening during a crisis in an effort to save lives and property.

As witnessed during major disasters like Hurricane Sandy – which caused an estimated $50 billion in damages – emergency crews can quickly gauge the hardest hit areas based on the volume of Tweets in the path of destruction, according to an article in the New York Times, “Twitter Storms Gauge Damage of Real Ones.”

The article was based on a scientific study by the Commonwealth and Industrial Research Organization in Melbourne, Australia, which was twitter2recently published in Science Advances.  It turns out that Twitter was slightly better than FEMA’s own models  in predicting the location and severity of damages caused by the 2012 storm, according to the report.

The study was based on 9.7 million Sandy-related messages sent by 2.2 million people during the disaster, according to the New York Times. Keywords such as FEMA, power, sandy, storm, etc., were analyzed and correlated with messages about financial data from federal, state and local relief payments and insurance claims filed after the storm.

“The more damage Sandy actually did to a neighborhood, as measured by the per capita cost of the repairs, the higher the intensity of relevant tweeting from those areas just after the storm,” according to the Science Advances report.

Even more amazing is Twitter’s swift speed when it comes to earthquake warnings. When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit Virginia in 2011, “the first Twitter reports from bystanders at the epicenter reached New York about 40 seconds ahead of the quake’s first shock waves,” according to the New York Times article.

As a result, federal seismologists are now experimenting with crowdsource earthquake warnings.

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