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Social Media Monitoring During Crises

Social Media Monitoring During Crises

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Published by Steven Entezari

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Published by: Steven Entezari on Aug 24, 2011
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09/29/2014

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IUPUI
Indiana University Schoolof InformaticsSteven Entezari
[SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORINGDURING CRISES] 
How social media can enhance disaster planning, rescue, and recovery
 
Steven Entezari
Social Media Monitoring During Crises
Social media has played an unprecedented role in saving lives during disasters and crises inrecent years. From the earthquakes in Haiti to tsunamis in Japan, social media has been a majorstakeholder in rescue and communication efforts by citizens in need. Unfortunately, however,designated emergency response and planning teams are not utilizing social media monitoring to its fullpotential; yet.Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook allow users to broadcast messages to friends andfollowers in real-time, anytime, and anywhere via mobile devices like cell phones. In many cases, textmessages may be able to reach their destination even if voice calls fail due to power and dataconnection outages (Gahran, 2011). Other social networking sites are also prevalent within differentniches such as YouTube for video messages, Twitpic (via Twitter) for images, and Foursquare forlocation-relevant updates. These utilities are not only free and easy to use, but also adaptable for specialcircumstances. An example of this is would be Google
s
Voice-to-Twitter
service, launched during the2011 protests in Egypt, allowing protestors to post first-hand news from the ground while internetconnections were shut down.Emergency agencies, first responders, political analysts and others involved with responseteams could utilize this information to supplement their tactics and planning before, during, and after acrisis.
Current Uses
Over 45 million Americans access at least one of their social media sites multiple times, everyday (Webster, 2011). People are already sharing images, tweets and texts before, during, and aftercrises (Merchant, Elmer, & Lurie, 2011); however these tend to be directed towards, and read only byfriends and followers of that particular social media user. This goldmine of real-time data seemsrelatively untapped by the emergency response community. There are, however, many agencies utilizingthese media for broadcast purposes.In 2009, the Alexandria, VA health department broadcast its vaccine location availabilities in realtime via Twitter, along with YouTube videos to tell over one million viewers
what was happening, whatto expect, and how to prevent the spread of influenza
(Merchant, Elmer, & Lurie, 2011). Clinic and ERwait times are also available in many areas for users of Twitter and smartphone apps (Versel, 2011).These are just two examples of many instances where emergency agencies are alerting the public viathese social media. What is seen less, however, is the active use of the content within these social mediarelating to the crisis at hand.The American Red Cross utilizes an online message board system as a forum for
sharing andreceiving information about suspected disaster
victims”
(Merchant, Elmer, & Lurie, 2011). Emergency
 
Steven Entezariteams can then accommodate this information generated by individuals directly affected by the disasterinto their rescue and recovery plans. Similarly, first responders could utilize messages from social mediasites like Facebook and Twitter to respond to mid-to-high level emergencies. The Virginia state policedepartment is actively looking at
ways to make sure someone is monitoring and responding to anyFacebook
emergencies
when 911 goes down, or a major disaster strikes
(Petriello, 2011).The academic realm is beginning to address the need for the integration as well. Andrea Tapia,an associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State will beginteaching a course, in the Fall of 2011, that will
explore the interconnectedness of information, peopleand technology in a crisis
(Lynch, 2011). Tapia also leads a project called EMERSE (Enhanced Messagingfor the Emergency Response Sector). EMERSE
categorizes tweets and texts from disaster sites into dataNGOs can use to aid victims
(Lynch, 2011). The only other Crisis Informatics class is at DominicanUniversity. Unfortunately there currently lacks a scientific analysis of these capabilities. According to theNew England Journal of Medicine,
few published scientific studies have applied these tools toevaluating the capabilities or effectiveness of social media in public health emergencies
(2011).Currently, these capabilities are being used by some agencies, but mostly by individuals to otherindividuals. It has proven to be an unparalleled system to connect individuals within crises. Emphasisshould be placed on the utilization of these tools by emergency response personnel.
Future Uses
Many emergency services currently utilize these social media to broadcast vital and time criticalhealth information. An aggregate look at this data or a real-time meta-analysis of these systems couldshow trends that aren
t immediately evident when seen separately. Grouping data from healthcarecenters, for example, could make the identification of capable health care centers more efficient byidentifying centers that are over capacity during an emergency.Another exciting look ahead is the capability of this type of system to improve the situationalawareness of a crisis specific to its geographic area (Merchant, Elmer, & Lurie, 2011). Models created byemergency personnel during a crisis or natural disaster could assimilate or accommodate this real-timeinformation to supplement decision making (Gahran, 2011). Resource management could besupplemented as well by identifying resources that may not have always been seen.
Perhaps off-dutynurses or paramedics who check in at a venue could also broadcast their professional background andwillingness to help in the event of a nearby emergency
(Merchant, Elmer, & Lurie, 2011).Russ Johnson, Director for Public Safety and Homeland Security for ESRI, makes note of simplified novice incident reporting by way of and context-aware smartphones (Gahran, 2011). This datacan be pulled, compared with messages from social media, and aggregated to enhance planning anddisaster recovery. In addition to this, Foursquare check-ins could share geographic information abouthazards during and after a crisis. These data, when coupled with a timeline and a map, could potentially

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