Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Using Social Media to Monitor Disasters

I use HootSuite on my desktop and on my Android smartphone to monitor a bunch of disaster-related Twitter accounts (you can see the list here). Shortly after 5:00 pm EDT Tweets from several sources describing the tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area scrolled by. I took note of several hashtags and did a quick search, immediately uncovering hundreds of "on the scene" text descriptions, and lots of links to pictures and raw video. All of this well ahead of national coverage.

Within about an hour, YouTube videos were being uploaded showing scenes, some of them geocoded to the exact location.

When the national coverage started most of the news anchors were using Twitter feeds as their source. All edited, of course, to block out anything deemed unsavory.

Social media in general, and Twitter in particular, is becoming an essential disaster event monitoring tool.