Expanding on the use of the hash tag to follow events as they happen, Twitter have now recognised the power of these ‘real-time’ conversations by creating a new custom timeline feature. This lets users share collections of tweets, without relying on the hashtag system. Relating this to a flooding event, the timeline application will allow news networks or local community flood action groups to create their own timeline around events, with local users able to access this for an up to date and constant stream of relevant event information.
Closer to home we can also see the valuable role Twitter played in the St Jude storm last month. Personally, when planning my journey to work from Bristol that blustery Monday morning, my first point of reference was Twitter and the #ukstorm stream. A look at http://tagboard.com/ukstorm, which tracks the social media response as a whole to the event, makes for an interesting visual and reflective story board of events.
We are now able to look back and see how, during the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, organisations took the initiative to make the most of the tweets being exchanged. By analysing the different Tweet locations, a geographical analysis could be produced. This proved crucial in helping local people and organisations identify those communities that were in the most need of urgent help.
A different way of looking at the response to a disaster event like flooding is one that an insurance company in Toronto took earlier this year. Working with a partner they made use of the real time data on Twitter to identify those properties and locations that may have suffered more damage than others. Insurance adjusters could then use this data intelligently when planning and prioritising their response to customers. Read more on this interesting use of the tool here: http://www.brightplanet.com/2013/09/using-social-media-data-to-help-in-a-flood/
We can now look at Twitter, and of course other social media platforms, as an important source of information when preparing for future flooding events. As I have explored, the information Twitter provides can prove essential for emergency services. It also provides a more informed response for those affected communities, both during the event, and I believe for future events also.
In the last week the Environment Agency have continued to embrace the power Twitter can offer them as an essential source of information to those at risk of flooding, via new Twitter Alerts. These alerts will be updates with time-sensitive critical information related to the unfolding event and coming directly from the Environment Agency straight to an individual’s handheld device or computer. https://twitter.com/envagency/alerts
An individual in a flooding scenario now has the ability to not only follow alerts directly from the EA for up to date advice, but they can also construct their own custom stream of information. This stream could include the Met Office for weather updates, the Highways Agency for travel information and even their own local community flood action group. The opportunity to use Twitter to create personalised instant event streams is only going to increase and with this hopefully a more informed individual response to increasing flooding emergencies.
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