Twitter Could Save Your Life in a Disaster

Stefanie Olsen over at Cnet has covered a topic near and dear to my heart. She recently posted an article on a program called Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disaster (InSTEED).

“We’re not talking about pulling the red phone out of the bottom drawer here,” said Rasmussen, a former adviser to U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, referring to Twitter and Facebook. “We’re talking about using ubiquitous, free software that is repurposed when necessary to fit into a humanitarian need.”

This ‘simple’ quote gives the entire scope of what InSTEED is trying to cover. I used to work at the Pentagon so I can translate that ‘govermentese’ for you.

What Mr. Rasmussen is saying is this: the private sector has come up with a pretty good idea and the government is going to adopt those tools as needed.

InSTEED is the brain child of Dr. Larry Brilliant. His goal is to create open source solutions that can help people and agencies communicate in the event of an emergency.

Olsen’s article gives the example of combining Twitter’s multi-channel bot framework with Google Earth’s geo-tagging service to create an emergency communication tool that can work in less than stellar reception areas.

The application of these services as an ad hoc emergency network is nothing short of brilliant (pardon the pun). Twitter is the perfect tool for cross platform communication, signaling phones, emails, Facebook pages, and a myriad of other networks.

Combining all this information in a Facebook style network will allow humanitarian agencies to reach thousands of people who could provide information and services.

I have been racking my brain all morning thinking about social tools that can be used to help create a humanitarian network. Do any of you out there have any ideas? Let me know.