Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Social Media & Emergency Preparedness: Can Your Family Text?

Thanks to a news release at NextGov I learned about an upcoming drill conducted by a national safety foundation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over the next few months to use texting and social media channels for emergency communication.

"In an emergency traditional phone lines may be down and traditional methods of communication may not be working," said spokeswoman Carla Shaw. "We want people to rehearse what would you do, and what other forms of communication would you have at your disposal."

She said drill participants should pre-load emergency messages onto their cell phones and pre-load useful communication Web sites, making these tools accessible in an emergency. Families should also discuss how they plan to use these tools and let each other know what types of signals to look for during a disaster, she added.

The agency, SafeAmerica Foundation, has a page about emergency texting and references a video podcast that I couldn't find so I looked for them on YouTube.

The texting video there is a bit cheesy but makes a valid point. How many of us have families that include Uncle Joel? Would your family & friends who don't normally text on their cell phones have a clue how to send one in an emergency?

I'm teaching my mom how to text when I next see her. We've had a family communication emergency phone plan with our out-of-state family for years (and put it into action once) but not once have we talked about texting and we need to.

In September 2008 I mentioned texting as a disaster communication method for the Red Cross Safe & Well list (I still don't see it as a viable option) and the use of Flickr to share photos after a disaster, and am looking forward to hearing about how the drills go.