Increasingly when there are emergencies worldwide, the first responding aid is provided by today’s social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and, in this case, Japan’s own Mixi. Though Japanese TV reported ‘Live’ almost immediately, during this week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, personal communication was another matter. Most communications were down and cell phones were often jammed. Social media powerhouses once again proved themselves as critical communication tools during a natural disaster.
Text-Driven Devices work first
Devices that are text-driven were the first to support communication. Adding to that capability is the nature of how social networks are structured. They are based on people’s relationships providing a more direct path of communication to loved ones. In the aftermath, these social networks are aiding in the task of locating missing people and returning them to their families.
Social networks with worldwide reach
Social networks with worldwide reach are providing a forum for comfort and hope to the grief-stricken Japanese. One poignant tweet from Japan expressed this well, “I feel great anxiety and fear of the earthquake, but I was cheered up by many followers and overseas people. Thanks a lot.”
Twitter has become vital
Tweets for Japan that included hashtags like #prayforjapan and #tsunami became top trending topics almost immediately. But more importantly was the strategic and critical support that it has provided in emergency communication, such as one used for this plea sent from someone in the Miyagi Prefecture, “We lack water, food, blankets, human power in Miyagi-prefecture’s hospital. Plz! #earthquake #eqjp #sendai #save_miyagi #j_j_help me.”
The next step relies on International help
As of this writing, Wikipedia is reporting that, “Japan received condolence messages and offers of assistance from a range of international leaders. According to the United Nations, search and rescue teams from 45 countries had been offered to Japan. Japan specifically requested teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the U.S.” Additional aid has been offered by Germany, United Kingdom, and Republic of China (Taiwan).
So far, absent from this list is Japan’s neighbor, China, who as a want-to-be world leader should step up to the plate. Early help is vital and the earlier Japan gets real help the better with 13 million people in Tokyo alone. These people are now living without basic supplies and systems. This situation will become dire very soon. With pressure from social networks like Twitter, perhaps aid will arrive more swiftly and perhaps countries will feel the pressure to do their part.
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