The National Fire and Disaster Management Agency of Japan sat down for a three-part discussion on allowing social networks to be used for disaster recovery and emergency calls. Twitter Japan blogged on how to use the service for placing calls, or getting the word out about your safety. A typical example included using the hash tag #survived if someone is safe. This is a bold measure, but at the same time, a wise one too.
An official at the National Fire and Disaster Management Agency in Japan says,
This is a discussion for when traditional voice-based infrastructure goes down during a natural disaster, to see if social networking can be used.
It was seen that voice networks clogged up under high volume of calls during the Tsunami last year. However, Twitter and other social networks survived their surge in usage. The use of social networks will take a lot of load off the traditional telephone infrastructure, creating a balanced usage of both the media.
Some people are apprehensive about the use of new-age media for something as critical as emergencies. A telephone line can be traced back in most cases. On the other hand, the reliability of a Twitter panic cannot be guaranteed. It is much easier to fake a Twitter account, or any other social networking account than to fake a phone call. However, they are overlooking the fact that the very essence of social networks is in being social. A fake account is quite easy to spot, from looking at the social interactions it makes. Moreover, it will be easier to verify the authenticity of supposed emergency through social networks, as more people from the same social circle pitch in and report the same events. This is a step forward in the evolution of society.
On a humorous note, this reminds me of an episode from the IT Crowd.