It Is Tornado Season Again

I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of the dreadful tornado damage in Joplin, Missouri.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected people.

But I also read reports looking for lessons I can learn and how I could use what I learn to help our community if we should be in the same situation.  This time of year is one in which we watch the weather reports closely.  We have a disaster plan and a fully equipped Emergency Operations Center in our Public Safety Building.  We have all been trained according to our roles and responsibilities in the National Emergency Response Plan.  But there are always new things to learn.

I found a great blog that I want to share with you that makes a link between social networking and disaster response.  idisaster2.0 is an excellent discussion with interesting links to current social media maps that illustrate how social media can be a great tool for emergency responders to gather detailed information about conditions in the affected areas, help families become reunited and get information out about shelter locations and other emergency resources.   A Ushahidi map is up and you can access it from this blog which I find fascinating.  You’ll see twitter messages from families listed trying to contact each other. Following the Japanese tsuami and earthquake emergency responders did the same thing there to great effect.

We already know that in a disaster or emergency situation the phone lines are jammed and virtually useless.  That includes both wireline and cellular phone systems.  When the natural gas station in Orion Township malfunctioned a few years ago, the 911 lines for Auburn Hills and Oakland County were completely overwhelmed.    So social networking could be a positive solution to that type of situation.

This blog makes 5 main points:

  • social networking can be used to document the event.  People can upload video; report status at their location.
  • social networking can be used by people to report that they are safe.   In Joplin authorities are trying to locate people reported missing.  This is always a primary objective of emergency responders.  If efforts can be focused on those who are truly missing that would relieve strained resources.
  • social networking can be used to re unify family and friends
  • social networking can share information on where to get/give help
  • social networking can help in recovering lost items like pets or even hospital records

FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Administration has a great site that gives advice on how you can prepare you family for emergencies including tornadoes.  Take time to make a plan for your family’s safety.

If you want to help, the blog also has some links that can direct you in what is needed there.