Earlier this month I attended Jeff Pulver’s 140 Character Conference (#140conf) in Tel Aviv and one of the most memorable presentations was by the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF has really taken social media under its wing, being one of the first military forces to embrace networks like Twitter and YouTube. At the 140 Character Conference, IDF Spokesperson Lt. Aliza Landez and Shalev Hulio of MediAnd talked about the IDF Search and Rescue team’s use of Twitter earlier this year in Haiti, when searching for and saving earthquake victims.
Back in January, just days after the earthquake struck, Rachel Maddow of NBC reported about the medical response in Haiti. Maddow talks about the fully operational field hospital that was set up by the Israeli Army in Port-au-Prince, performing surgical operations and providing care for hundreds of earthquake survivors. However, what was really impressive about the Israeli response in Haiti was their use of Twitter to find and rescue earthquake victims.
The IDF has it’s own Twitter account, @IDFSpokesperson, that they use to provide followers with information and updates from the IDF in real time. They keep followers up-to-date with the goings-on of the IDF and respond to questions and comments. When the IDF sent a Search & Rescue Team to Haiti, they opened up a new Twitter account specifically for updates about the Israeli delegation in Haiti, @IDFinHaiti. To their surprise, they started to get people tweeting them leads about where they could find trapped victims of the earthquake. After verifying Twitter leads online, the IDF went to the tweeted locations and pulled victims out of the rubble. Check out one of the IDF’s rescues in the video below.
The example of the IDF using Twitter to save lives in Haiti really exemplifies the power of Twitter. The site can be used not only to get in touch with virtually anyone, including one of the most powerful militaries in the world, but also to prompt action. As people found out that the IDF could be contacted via Twitter it automatically made their search and rescue services more available and they were able to work with people from all walks of life to find and rescue earthquake victims.
What do you think of the Israel Defense Forces’ use of Twitter during the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti? Do you have any other examples in which Twitter was used in similar ways?