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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

Text Messaging After Chinese Earthquake Is A Lesson For Us All

May 15th, 2008 · 1 Comment

NPR’s Melissa Block had an interesting story about how many Chinese throughout the country communicated with each other directly after the earthquake using text messaging:

The first word about the massive earthquake in China did not come from the news media. In China, some 600 million people have cell phones, and when the quake hit, many reached for them — but not to talk. Instead, they used the most popular form of communication — text messaging.  

Part of the reason is that texting is cheaper than calls there and that many people in China do not use voice mail on their cell phones. However, in high volume situations, texting can get through when calls cannot (such as immediately after the 7/7 London bombings). So, it is important that every American with a cell phone learn how to text (even if you have to get your kids to teach you.)
In fact, one of the first emergency preparedness tasks my wife and I completed was to learn how to text (with the help, of course, of my tech savvy daughter).


David Stephenson may be the biggest proponent of texting for emergencies, and he often posts stories about texting’s potential in emergencies, including in crime fighting:
The latest example of texting’s potential in emergencies is this news item about a teen who was home because of illness when two intruders entered her house. She texted her mom, who then alerted 911 and drove home (not too smart on mom’s part to physically challenge the perps instead of waiting for cops, but parental instincts can trump common sense. Fortunately, they were both OK).

Here’s the deal with texting in emergencies or observing a potential crime or terrorist attack in the making: as with its techno-cousin, sending a camera phone picture from the scene (as the teen did on a MBTA bus that led to the arrest of an alleged groper): because it can be done silently, and without calling attention to yourself, you can tip off authorities without focusing attention on yourself.

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Tags: Preparedness 2.0

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