Posted in Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Social Media

Global Tweet-a-thon for Law Enforcement

Girl on Twitter BirdSince being founded in 2006, Twitter has evolved from a virtual gathering place teenagers casually discuss fashion and celebrity news to a 175,000,000-member platform used by law enforcement and emergency management professionals worldwide to share best practices and educate the public about disaster preparedness and recovery. Celebrating the medium, police agencies around the world will connect via Twitter on March 22 to participate in a 24-hour Tweet-a-thon beginning at 8 a.m. EST. I’ve had my own Twitter account since August 2009 and I find it’s a great way to communicate.

The Global Police Tweet-a-thon is sponsored by Cops.net. So far, 90 agencies have signed up to participate. And there is still plenty of time for interested parties to register. All that’s required to enter is submission of agency name, contact information and time zone. Just email the founder of LAWS Communications, lauri@lawscomm.net. All agencies will use the same hashtag, which is yet to be determined, in order to call attention to police work and issues that police officers face as well as promote the use of social media in police work. The hashtag I like most is #bacon.

“We hope to send (a message) to non-law enforcement that their police officers are up to speed with social media, and that they should use social media to talk with police officers and to be stewards of public safety,” explained event organizer Lauri Stevens.

Over the years, numerous police agencies have held tweet-a-thons or tweet-the-beat events to create awareness of police work and call attention to related issues. So far, early entries are from all across the United States as well as Canada and the UK. I’m trying to get all of my canine cohorts to sign up so we can communicate via the Tweet-a-Thon instead of through the Twilight Bark.

One state that understands the importance of relying on social media in times of crisis is Louisiana, where the Chief of Police in Thibodaux said he’s promoting transparency in policing actions and furthering proactive social media integration. A 2012 University of Maryland report called “Social Media Use during Disasters,” revealed detailed information about the public’s use of social media, both generally and during specific disasters, and addressed what prompts the public to use social media during disasters as well as what deters such consumption. The only thing that deters my consumption of bacon is a fully belly.

The report includes specific examples of social media consumption during key catastrophic events including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The case studies provide insights into how the public uses social media and other media, including preliminary lessons learned from these notable events. Most experts agree that if Hurricane Katrina had occurred after Twitter caught on, the exchange of information between victims and public agency officials likely would have been greatly improved.

Louisiana Police Chief Scott Silveri said his agency “will participate in the tweet-a-thon because (we) hope that other agencies break from the reactive isolationist nature of traditional law enforcement, and begin realizing the benefits of sharing timely and relevant information through social media.”

To participate in the Tweet-a-thon, email Lauri Stevens at lauri@lawscomm.net with agency name, contact name and email address. Then mark your calendar for March 22 and don’t forget to tweet! I’ll be tweeting and would love to start a conversation with you.

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Posted in BE SAFE, Earthquakes, Health & Welfare, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Japan Disaster: How You Can Help

Red cartoon character handing giant coin to blue cartoon character
Wonder how to give to relief efforts for recent events in Japan?

The earthquake and ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan brought unimaginable destruction to all facets of the country. Calamities of this magnitude also show people’s ability to give and the global concern for those in trouble. Despite all of the grief I give to you two-legged folks, I’m always impressed with how tragedy brings out your compassion.

For our part, we would like to provide information about how to make donations to help so you will be able to contribute to the Japanese relief efforts. We’d also like to use this post to share some thoughts about the ways that technology and social media are changing communication and fundraising efforts following natural and manmade disasters.

While the donations have been pouring in, they still fall well below similar donation levels given for Haiti and Hurricane Katrina. A week after the devastating quake, donations reached $87 million for efforts in Japan, compared to $275 million in Haiti and $522 million for Hurricane Katrina. With millions of Japanese citizens without power or ready-access to food, more donations are needed to provide just basic necessities. So please donate something, even it is only $1. Those bills add up!

Organizations such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar provide information about how individuals can give to the charity organizations that use donations most efficiently. I would normally recommend the SCPA. But even I have to admit that these disasters need attention first! These websites also detail those organizations that pool together donations to be used for disasters when needed. This is helpful since, in some past disasters, nonprofit groups end up with an overflow of funds that they are required to spend on specific relief efforts even if those monies might be better used elsewhere.

Easy ways to donate to reputable charitable organizations using the latest technology:

  • Mobile phone users can text “redcross” to 90999 to give a $10 donation to help the Red Cross’ efforts in Japan and throughout the world. I would love to send texts. But alas— no opposable thumbs.
  • You can donate online through World Vision.
  • Contribute via web, traditional mail or wire transfer to Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Save the Children is accepting $10 donations via PayPal, Amazon Payments or Google Checkout, or by texting JAPAN to 20222. The organization provides needed food and medical care for children in need throughout the world.
  • (If you have some extra money you can’t figure out how to spend, consider donating to your local dog and cat rescue organization!)

Be careful of scams! Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people try to exploit other’s suffering. So be very wary of replying to any incoming text messages that request credit card information or other financial information. While I love you humans, this kind of thing really baffles me! Can’t some people find a better way to earn money?

Technology in Action

In addition to enabling faster and easier donations, social media proved useful for rescue efforts and to quickly spread vital information.

  • While mobile phone lines were overloaded during and after the quake, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Skype chat worked well and provided vital communication links.
  • A schoolteacher in England reported chatting with her young cousin in Japan after the quake via Facebook chat. The child couldn’t reach their parents a few miles away, but was able to communicate quickly with a relative on the other side of the world.
  • In the hours immediately following the tsunami and subsequent earthquakes, 50,000 people in Japan downloaded a Smartphone flashlight application, which they purportedly used to navigate through rubble. These apps are truly amazing! We just need one that cooks a steak for us! For you pooch lovers, I have a list of top iPhone apps for those who love their pets!

Technology is opening new avenues for finding lost loved ones and learning more about the latest problems.

  • Google launched a Google Person Finder tool to locate people who are searching for loved ones. After the Red Cross’ Family Links site was overloaded, Google stepped in to help. Searchable in both English and Japanese, the site provides information for specific people including photographs and updates on their well being.
  • Twitter Hashtags (#) including #prayforjapan, #tsunami, #japan, and #textREDCROSS are providing a steady stream of information for victims and loved ones in real time.

As helpful as technology and mobile communication have become, it’s important to remember that these tools can be positive influences to help us quickly connect with people during a disaster as well as a potential tool for criminals to exploit. So be wary of posting too much information about your personal and professional activities online, or you risk alerting thieves when your home is vacant. This is just one example of how proper planning and careful attention to detail is crucial for safely managing situations when disasters strike.

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