Twitter Saves the World!

Herriman FireCassie and I sat intently staring at the television screen. The FOX reporter was on the scene of a local fire that was racing toward Herriman, Utah.

Inflammatory words spewed out of the report’s mouth –  emergency, disaster, chaos, destruction, devastation were just a few of the many words he hurled at the audience.

Annoyed, I grabbed my phone, started my Twitter app and searched for “herriman fire.” And there it was, the city’s very own emergency twitter feed: @bereadyherriman. From that point on, I started watch their updates and I started feeling better. Instead of inflating the story, they continued to feed out a steady stream of updates filled with facts. It is amazing how that 140-character limit can force you to stick to the bare necessities.

I sat there watching my real time twitter updates and compared them to the news. Guess what? You’d almost think that the reporter was doing the same thing (as I am sure he was), watching twitter and then giving the story a subtle death and disaster spin.

Perhaps I lucked out. I am not really sure why I checked Twitter in the first place. But in the end, I was getting news directly from the source and from others that were there on the scene and were being affected by the situation.

Lessons Learned: The News

  1. Broadcast media has a job to do and sometimes that means adding a bit of drama to a story in order to keep the audience watching.
  2. Even live news broadcasts are not always the best and most current source of information.
  3. We as citizens must be diligent when it comes to the media we consume.

Lessons Learned: Twitter

I have a new found respect for Twitter. Many pundits have downplayed its usefulness. Other have declared it dead more than once in the last six months. Yet it hangs on and with its newest update is poised to challenge facebook. Here are a few things I learned from this experience:99% of

  1. Twitter’s true power lies in its ability for real-time conversations.
  2. Using Twitter is about more than retweeting articles you find online.
  3. 95% of the messages are spam. If you are willing to dig through it all, there is a wealth of great stuff happening on the platform. Talk to people and find out where the good conversations are going on.

In on way do I want to downplay what happened that night. It was dangerous and many families faced having their entire lives thrown into chaos. But the reality of how the situation was handled was quite different. We had a city leadership that had a plan in place for incidents like this. One very effective tool they used was Twitter (@bereadyherriman). Twitter allowed them to totally bypass traditional media and speak directly to those being effected. This in turn led to a quick response by citizens to leave the area in an organized manner. Using Twitter even freed up the airwaves and allowed prevented interference across critical data lines. It was an impressive effort and Herriman city should be commended, especially our young and capable mayor.

The fire and police departments reacted quickly and worked diligently to ensure that families who were in danger left safely. They still have a strong presence in the area three days later and are making sure there is no chance for the fire to flare up again. Even the National Guard showed up today to help contain the few remaining areas that are still being watched.

Jordan School District officials were another organization that stepped up to the plate and helped out our community from the very beginning. They opened up several schools to evacuees. In addition, they closed all of the surrounding schools for a day to let families make their way back to their homes and take care of one another. They were also concerned with the air quality and wanted to ensure that their students had safe learning environments to return to.

All of these people, from city officials to our emergency responders to our local school officials deserve to be recognized for how they handled the event. They have definitely earned my respect and loyalty.

As for the news, well, I am not sure. After watching the FOX reporter, I think I have had about all I can take. Add me to the growing list of consumers that isn’t sticking with traditional news broadcasts.

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5 thoughts on “Twitter Saves the World!

  1. I can not stand local news. Ask Steve. If he wants to watch, he needs to go downstairs. They sensationalize everything. Did you know I majored in Broadcast Journalism. Then did my internship at channel 2, and changed my mind.

    You may have been disgusted with Fox, but I was with Channel 2. They followed the family that lost their house, and had it on camera when they found out the news. Tacky!

    As for Twitter. I totally agree. Much more efficient way to get information. Unless however you are from the generation that is inept when it comes to that technology. What do you suppose they do?

  2. Jason I couldn’t agree more! being one that was evacuated, I was looking for any information I could find. I happen to have the ABC4 and FOX14 app on my phone. I was extremely impressed with ABC4 because they had a link to the Herriman twitter page. That is where I finally received informati on I could actually use. One thing you didn’t put on here that I found out through twitter, was several businesses came together and donated food and water etc. To the evacuees. I think it is wonderful to see a community pull together on a time of need.

  3. Jason-

    I really enjoyed your blog on twitter. I am converted. As a member of the Herriman City Council, I was in the room as Bereadyherriman was rolling the twitter feeds out to the public. You are correct that the media has a job to do, and sometimes “spin” can get out of control. I was impressed that several folks from the media told me that oftentimes our twitter information was way out in front of what the media knew about the fire. Thanks for bringing awareness to the utility of twitter.

    By the way, you can follow me on twitter as well at twitter.com/MikeDayHerriman

    Thanks!

    Mike Day

    1. Mike,

      I really appreciate the reply. I’ve been using social media for a while now and throughout that time I have seen a variety to ways to use tools like Twitter. Though I have heard stories about Twitter being used for situations like ours, it was impressive to be in the middle of a potential disaster and to know that our city officials had the forethought to provide us with access to information that would be a challenge to get to in the past. The result was simple – we had no need to panic and were safe.

      I’ve wanted to do a follow up interview with BeReadyHerriman. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?

        What has been the response from Herriman citizens to your use of Twitter during the fire?
        Where there additional lessons learned during and after the situation?
        How has this situation changed your views of technologies like Twitter?

      Thanks again for your comments and for all that you are doing to make Herriman what it is. It is nice being a part of this wonderful community.

      Jason

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