September 2, 2009

Texting, Social Media For Emergency Communications

Text messaging, twittering and the use of social networking Web sites could help families stay in touch amid disasters that have knocked out traditional communication methods, the Safe America Foundation reported on Tuesday.

The Atlanta-based national safety group is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on a campaign known as "Drill Down for Safety", which seeks to increase public awareness of communication options during an emergency.

"In an emergency traditional phone lines may be down and traditional methods of communication may not be working," Safe America Foundation spokeswoman Carla Shaw told the Associated Press.

"We want people to rehearse what would you do, and what other forms of communication would you have at your disposal."

Drill participants should pre-load emergency messages on their cell phones and pre-load relevant communication Web sites, Shaw advised, so the tools are accessible during an emergency. Families should also discuss ahead of time how to best utilize these tools, including which types of signals to look for during an emergency, she said.

From September 11 through mid October, some 200,000 people are expected to participate in drills of alternative emergency communication tools, the AP reported.  Participants include those who pledged to practice disaster communication on Safe America's Web site, along with employees of companies such as UPS, Motorola and Office Depot that plan to hold safety drills and training sessions.


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