The Japanese government is considering taking steps to make Twitter and other social networks an official emergency call system.
According to PCWorld, the national Fire and Disaster Management Agency hosted a panel in Tokyo to discuss allowing 911-type emergency calls to be sent via Twitter.
Coinciding with this panel, Twitter Japan head James Kondo tweeted that he would like to see Twitter’s use as lifeline during emergencies strengthened, and the company’s Japan blog posted several tips on using Twitter during emergencies and natural disasters.
Although nothing was confirmed, the panel will reconvene in November to continue discussing whether it is possible for Twitter to be part of the emergency call system.
There are upsides to a move like this, including more ways for citizens to contact their ambulance, police and fire departments if they don’t have access to a phone – a situation which happened for many Japanese citizens during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In the aftermath of the disaster, many people reported not being able to reach emergency personnel due to voice networks being overcrowded.
If the proper system were in place to ensure that all tweets for help are seen in real-time by emergency staff, expanding 911 calls to social media might just work. However, this is no easy task: you can’t simply ask everyone who is tweeting during an emergency to include a hashtag, for instance, as it is unrealistic that everyone will know it or be able to look it up in time. It would take spectacular monitoring software and a big public awareness campaign to make an idea like this work.
Do you think it’s feasible to set up emergency calls from Twitter and other social networks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
(911 button image via Shutterstock)