Feature Article

November 18, 2015

Are You Safe? We Want to Know

While the world grieves with France, for many of us it gets more personal. I sent Skype messages to my two friends that live in Paris. So far, no response.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter and Facebook both enabled social media tools for connecting with the Parisians.

On Facebook, “Safety Check” allows you to put a public posting that you are okay.

Checking on my friends, one has posted since the attack, another has not, but reported losing his phone, so it may be a while for a post.

On the posting side, Twitter has “moments”, which is a crowdsourcing-curation tool.

I would say of the two, Twitter is the better implementation.

At the risk of sounding like a politician that says, “Never let a crisis go to waste”, I want to make a point about technology and a gap I see.

The world will spend millions more now on enabling first responders; with more surveillance, more weapons, and more talent, much of the focus will be on first responders.

However, there is an infrastructure that keeps getting ignored; there is a step before the first responders that has yet to be enabled with today’s technology.

I am speaking about the emergency 911 network, and its equivalents around the world. In theory, the emergency network should be at the heart of the incident command and control location. As the news streamed in from Paris, numbers and attackers were flying around and inflated by double reporting and a desire to be “leaders with the latest information.”

In the past this has led to bad reporting and rumor mongering. Having public participation is always a two-edged sword.

However, getting as complete a picture as possible requires strong curation, and the people at the 911 Public-Safety Answering Point [PSAP] have that skill.  

My hope is that when specifications get made, we include the updating of the PSAP to include rich media interfaces, crowdsource analytics and other tools.





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