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In a Disaster, The First Responder May Be You

On March 11, when Japan suffered a one-two punch — first from an 9.0 earthquake and then a devastating tsunami — more than 1,200 tweets per minute were sent from Tokyo, according to Mashable.   More recently in May, after a terrible tornado hit Joplin, Missouri with full force, killing 145, several FaceBook pages were rapidly created by citizens and their families and friends to post pictures of the missing, share news of loved ones,  information about conditions on the ground, and messages about supplies, shelter and support.

Social media networks are transforming how people give and receive help and information during disasters.  People aren’t waiting for direction from government and humanitarian agencies; they are turning to each other using mobile devices and social networks. In the dark world of disasters, this emerging trend is challenging old assumptions and can and will, I believe, will help focus, support and strengthen the efforts of trained first responders  (both volunteer and professional)  to get to where they are most needed and put their expertise to maximum use.  Social media and the networks that underpin it simply allow more people to support each other.

Cisco CEO John Chambers discussed the value of secure collaboration in a networked world last week at a National Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and Homeland Security conference in San Francisco. John talked about the role the network will play in being able to securely provide relevant timely information to response agencies. He also conducted a scenario demonstration of what would happen should an emergency arise, using the upcoming America’s Cup Race in San Francisco as an example.

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