December 27, 2010 Leave a comment


Tweet Responsibly

The earthquake was beneath the sea floor off the coast of the Bonin Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Over the course of the next 3 hours after the earthquake, various news and scientific communities analyzed, reported and adjusted their views on whether or not a tsunami was generated and the scope of the risk to the public. The official source and also the best source of information on the Japanese coastline Tsunami watch and warnings as well as observations of the actual waves can be found on the JapanMeteorological Agency website http://www.jma.go.jp/en/tsunami/index.html.


Look through the tweets below, what would you think? It’s no surprise that some countries scrambled to confirm facts and quell rumors of impacts to their coastlines. Social Media users who are sharing information regarding emerging events need to be cognizant of how their message will be received by others.  Twitter has no geographic boundaries.  Saying Tsunami Warning or no tsunami for the west coast has no value to someone when the location is missing.  Worse than that…someone may assume the message is for their location and it is for another country.


Imagine you are living in a coastal community somewhere in the world, and you see the following messages in Twitter….

Tsunami warning. Seriously no joke. Go listen to the news and stay away from the coast.

Was that helpful?  No?  Let’s see if these help….

1. BREAKING NEWS – Tsunami not expected from 7.4 quake; Japanese Meteorological Agency makes warning for Ogasawara Islands
2. Tsunami Warning. Be careful
3. Japanese Meteorological Association Issues Mild Tsunami Warning #JAPAN #TSUNAMI (link)
4. 7.4 earthquake off Japan’s coast triggered a tsunami warning for remote islands and advisory for so Japan. CNN reports: (link)
5. 7.4 quake hits Japan, tsunami warning issued
6. Earthquake Hits Coast Of Japan, Tsunami Warning Issued
7. Tsunami Information: sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near (continued on link)
8. Tsunami Information: no destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake data. Ho…(continued on link)
9. 7.4 Japan quakeundefinedbut NO tsunami threat for the west coast
10. Tsunami Information (Pacific): no destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami
11. Just checked the PTWC and there’s no Tsunami warning for the Pacific Ocean


Considering just the choice of words (and not making any assessment on facts) the most effective use of Twitter for communicating this event would be #4.  7.4 earthquake off Japan’s coast triggered a tsunami warning for remote islands and advisory for so Japan. CNN reports: (link).  This message clearly states the location of not only the earthquake but most importantly – the location under the threat of a tsunami warning and an advisory for southern Japan and also includes the source of the information.  Another good one is #3 Japanese Meteorological Association Issues Mild Tsunami Warning #JAPAN #TSUNAMI (link).

Here is a message that fell far short of its desire to educate the public #8. Tsunami Information: no destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake data. Ho…(continued on link) There is no locatio

n information in the message and the most critical piece of information needed by Japan and all of the other countries interested in know about the impact for their coastlines was information that ran over the twitter limit of 140 characters.

Would the name of the twitter user sway your decision on what story to believe?  If the name of the twitter account included the name Tsunami, NOAA, Earthquake, Quake, CNN,

News, or any variation, would that improve your confidence in the information shared? We encourage the public to follow the guidance of their local officials during a disaster.  But some twitter users appear to be official and are not. There are times also when information from official channels is published too slowly to ensure the safety of the public.  When a tsunami wave travels at up to 500 miles an hour and starts only a few miles offshore, there may not be sufficient time to analyze the buoy data and warn the public.

Social Media tools can be very valuable and quite powerful during disaster.  The medium can be used to connect people with needed aid and connect aid agencies with people in need.  Disaster preparedness and response actions can be immediately delivered to thousands and millions of people who are in need. The risk of misleading the public impacted (and the public not impacted) because of this widespread visibility is perhaps equally concerning

The good news is that the tsunami wave generated was small and did not cause damage or loss of life.  The bad news is that the real facts were only confirmed hours after the earthquake and only after the small wave struck the remote islands south of the Japanese mainland.

If you live in a community at risk for a tsunami, connect with your local officials and be sure to have a plan for not only what to do if the threat is imminent but also know how will you be notified that a threat is imminent.  While it can be a powerful life saving source of information, don’t rely on Social Media as your only source of information.

And if you are tweeting disaster information keep in mind the fact that your message will be visible not only by your intended audience, but also by the global community.  Before you tweet, be sure you are providing information that is accurate, pertinent and contains information that will not increase the risk of the safety of the public.  Tweet responsibly.

Humanity Road is a global digital disaster response organization.

Driven by Need, Led by Experience, Powered by Volunteers


Verify Times Two

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment
For verification of information, I recommend this guideline inside and outside of Twitter – ‘Verify x2’.  This means, for any critical news, find 2 separate reliable sources or 1 authenticated source to confirm the information.  Be sure those 2 sources do not lead back to a single source.  Here is a better way to define it; 

There are several types of sources

1) Official Source:  Example: USGS is official source for the USA (but not outside the USA)

2) Trusted Source:  A source that has been proven to be reliable and trustworthy for the pertinent event (example: CNN, disaster responders)

3) Unknown Source:  A source that has not yet been provent to be reliable, but has not been proven unreliable either

4) Untrusted Source:  A source that has provided inaccurate or misleading information

Suggested Guidelines Using These Sources

1) Official source or Aid Agency – consider it authenticated (but they get it wrong too)

2) Trusted Source – consider it reliable (but they get it wrong too)

3) Mainstream media – consider it reliable (but they get it wrong too)

4) Video or photo – consider it authenticated (be sure it is not an old event)

5) 2 separate sources (known or unknown) – consider it authenticated

6) 1 separate source (known or unknown) – consider it ‘unconfirmed’

Also, don’t follow or unfollow people based on any suspicians – watch, read and attempt to determine whether the information being shared is authenticated, reliable, unreliable or outright false and then report those findings in Twitter to debunk mis-information or confirm it as fact.  It is equally important to know what is being reported inaccurately (and stop it) as it is to report what is accurate.

 As a side note – In 2010, CNN reported a Tsunami warning for Chile when there was not a Tsunami warning issued.  USGS reported an earthquake in the Atlantic near Haiti that didn’t happen.  Even official sources and mainstream media make mistakes sometimes and so will we.


Avoid making judgements on the character or intentions of any individual or organization sharing information but use caution on retweeting any individual that may have in the past was either proven to or appeared to misrepresent fact.   

Categories: Uncategorized

Are you a Tweety Bird or a Twitter Warrior

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Disaster 2.0 –

 Are You Helping in Twitter…Really?
Have you become an expert at fact finding emergencies in Twitter already? Tweeting isn’t being used to save lives unless it is picked up by someone in the area who is able to assist those who are in need.  Twitter is not a replacement for traditional forms of emergency reporting and response.  Here are some helpful tips on how to be more effective in Twitter during disaster response:
  1. Rescue teams and aid agencies prioritizes action based on population, criticality, ability to reach the impacted area and ability to find the people impacted.
  2. Try searching for public internet news stories on the topic – you’d be surprised how often news reports can assist in isolating and confirming impacts
  3. When reporting an incident inhttp://pakreport.org/ add contact info if available – Provide twitter user name or initial of reporter – date/time.
  4. If you are able to find the GPS location please include it along with the street address whenever possible.  Street names may have various nicknames and also building and street signs may be down in the area impacted.  www.wikipedia.com provides a great deal of helpful information including GPS.
  5. If you are not sure whether an incident being reported is authentic, try to confirm it before reporting it but use your instincts and when in doubt report it as ‘unconfirmed’.

Twitter Commandments

  1. Do not panic.
  2. Take a deep breath. You do not need to know it all. Do not be distracted by noise and confusion.
  3. Do No Harm.  Remember it is better to have no news than it is to have inaccurate news.
  4. Include date & time stamp for local time in the impacted location of the original posting.(sample: Aug 18 1:10pm local time #pkfloods [address], [emergency description] [contact: name of contact)  If you are retweeting a retweet of a retweet you see how this will help aid workers and first responders who are frustrated by old news and rumors. We recommend formatting your tweet using Tweak the Tweet  (http://epic.cs.colorado.edu/TtT/editors/pakistan/).
  5. Verify your source. If you do not know for sure the source is reliable – do not retweet the information. Use two reliable independent sources for major news items such as collapse of a hospital or a new field hospital. If you do not have two reliable sources then include (unconfirmed) or (unverified) in your tweet.
  6.  Verify your facts. Get facts, locations, address, specific need, number of people impacted.  Look it up on internet – www.google.com the address, the news, videos, images, blogs, look it up on YouTube, Facebook, find a map, learn about the location impacted… dig deep into details, the more the better.
  7.  Listen to the experts.  You are not on the ground in the impacted area.  Use caution and reason and follow those who appear to have a ‘handle’ on how to respond in these situations.
  8. Not sure where to start? Pick one topic and stick with it. Become an expert on fielding, researching facts, news stories and providing help on specific topic.
  9. Repeat the first 3 Twitter Commandments as needed.

 Visit us online at www.humanityroad.org .

Categories: Uncategorized

We Are Here For You

There has been much in the media recently about new technology and how it is helping in times of disaster.  What has gotten little coverage are the people behind the new tools.  Who are these people that use the new technology to help others when disaster strikes?  

Humanity Road, Inc.(c) volunteers actively monitor many disaster alert services including USGS.gov, NOAA.gov, GDACs.org, FEMA.org, Oceanweather.com, Redcross.org, Ready.gov and other Internet based geological, weather and disaster monitoring tools. Our volunteers also monitor mainstream media news reports, News blogs, disaster related conversations and posts made in social networking forums such as @Twitter, Facebook, Google groups, Youtube, Twitpics and other Internet based applications and forums.  We keep in touch with state emergency response agencies and local communities impacted by disaster by reaching them through the Internet.  If this intrigues you, then you are probably a geek like us and will want to visit our Emergency Operations Center at https://humanityroad.wordpress.com/virtual-emergency-operations-center/.

Our volunteers are geo-dispersed, enhancing our ability to respond within minutes of any significant disaster.  And because we train our volunteers on how to identify and confirm facts during chaotic events, our volunteers are able to increase the accuracy of routing true urgent needs situations to the appropriate agencies for response.

After the Haiti and Chile quakes we were inputting urgent incidents into Ushahidi, connecting those who needed aid with those who could provide aid. We work with citizens, federal, state, local and international aid agencies, technology providers, and the general public before, during and after disaster to educate them on where aid is needed and where it can be found.  Yes, we are the disaster geeks who use the tools that you read about in the newspapers and blogs.  Though we do it quietly, efficiently and without fanfare, we want you to know, we are here for you.  Humanity Road, Inc is a 501c3 Tax Exempt Public Charity
Visit us online at www.humanityroad.org

About Our Volunteers

It has been 100 days since the Haiti quake that shook the world.  For many it seems a lifetime. For me it seems like just yesterday. As we make our official debut in the public eye, I would like to take a moment to tell you about the extraordinary efforts of a few very special people who came together during a time of great need to serve others around the world.   There are so many volunteers helping Haiti in countries around the world every day.    Each has a story about why now, why Haiti, why Chile, why Indonesia and why do so many feel the need to help.  I want to take a moment to recognize some very special people who provided the initial foundation for our digital volunteer team.  In 2010, it began in Twitter, and so in light of that, I would like to share with you using their twitter names, the @Twitter volunteers who made significant contribution to laying the foundations of Humanity Road, Inc.






















Each of these volunteers has put in tremendous hours of their personal effort and resources to help others.  They have been critical in helping to establish a process that will be repeatable in the future to help others.  They have all been a personal inspiration to me in helping provide communications to the general public during times of great need.  I hope you will join me in thanking them for their contribution.  Because of our volunteers, we are here to stay and will continue our efforts to help the world, and your neighborhood, when you need us most.

With my deepest gratitude and respect,

Christine Thompson
President, Humanity Road, Inc.