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Twitter May Have Saved Lives During CA Wildfire Tragedy

Calif_wildfires_twitter If we needed any more proof of the value of Twitter as an instant communications tool– all we now have to do is point towards its adoption during this week's California wildfire tragedy.

The wildfires sweeping across parts of California have forced a million to flee their homes, left 400,000 acres of land a charred ruin and reduced some 1,300 homes to rubble.

So imagine the comfort that is being provided by three tireless Twitter feeds during this entire tragedy.

That’s right, Twitter is playing a big part this time round, providing updates and warnings for the citizens aware of it. KPBS News and the LA Times both have Twitter feeds, providing dozens of updates for residents.

From my writing of this article, KPBS 21 minutes ago alerted people that “The Encinitas Community Center is still open, accepting people and their pets” and then 13 minutes ago “Anyone evacuating Julian can go to Borrego High School 2281 Diegueno Dr, Borrego Springs.”

For those of us who have been passionate early adopters of Twitter, this is the proof in the proverbial pudding.

For many people in the midst of this tragedy, normal updates are simply not available. And for a long time those giving the updates have known this. They’ve relied on radio stations set apart for disasters to get word out. But in a day and age where radio is fast becoming the old relic medium, what do they have?
Officials have seen this as a problem, and have already begun implementing test scenarios to reach a solution. Purdue University in Indiana and St. John’s University in New York both recently ran tests of mass-SMS-notification throughout their campuses. The aim was to provide students evacuation orders on a medium that, in all reality, everyone has these days.

With Twitter’s SMS notification abilities, the next step was logical.

Nate Ritter, a self confessed “successful entrepreneur and web chef of 10+ years” has also been covering the San Diego fires. Ritter has so far twittered some 430 updates for residents of the area, starting each post with #sandiegofire so that people can use some of the new Twitter functionality to follow the fires.
Twitter only just implemented the ability to track keywords in Twitter updates across the board. All one would have to do is send an SMS in to follow a certain keyword. Nate Ritter has provided that keyword, #sandiegofire.

All in all, it is pretty obvious that Twitter is proving itself invaluable right now.

Posted by Josh Hill.


Hi! We are seeking permission to use your photo(on this page) in the inaugural issue of our journal entitled the Forensic Digest. This edition will be offered without charge to its membership. The lead article features the problems of investigating wild land fires and your photo is perfect for it.
Please advise as soon as possible about the possible use. Thank you.

Maria Mills
International Association of Forensic Professionals (IAFP)
Tel. No: 760 322 9925
Fax: 760-323-7555

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