Information is among the most important things anyone can have, if not the most important. At desperate times information can easily save lives, and the lack of it can be very costly. For that reason, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have studied how to use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and more, to spread vital information in times of crisis. Of course, their efforts were not to determine if these systems could be useful, as they have proven themselves during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic and last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to name two examples. The team considered what more could be done with our current connectedness. Their suggestions include systems to monitor emergency room wait times, ‘buddy systems’ for monitoring at risk individuals, and location-linked check-ins for off duty emergency personnel who are on location.
Another advantage to employing social media during such events is a real-time record of what happened exists, allowing one to determine a community’s responsiveness and vulnerabilities.