In fact, some of the first reports of the shooting can be found on Twitter, posted by students as the shootings were occurring! This was before the school was locked down. Before the school’s emergency alert system was activated. Before the police showed up.Fact is, our citizens rely less and less on us or official agencies. With the age of social convergence, comes a certain "empowerment" for people, based on this basic equation:
Mobile devices + social networks = empowered citizens + greater data/volunteer mobilizationThis is a crucial fact. While official agencies debate on what role to give social networks (especially Twitter) in their alerting and warning strategies, the world is moving on and already uses them daily and for any sort of incident. So, until, and maybe not even then, CMAS gains a strong foothold in the mobile market, and PLAN becomes readily available, official agencies will almost always lag behind. Why? Because all of us have become sensors, alert nodes, and the initiators of our own alert networks.
I'm not discounting CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) and PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network) ... I believe they will play an essential role in the overall alerting and warning systems of the near future ... Again, why? Because, survey after survey indicate that a growing number of people prefer to be alerted and informed via their mobile devices. More on CMAS in the video linked here.
So what are official agencies and governments to do:
- move at the speed of their audiences (that means speed of Twitter) or be irrelevant
- use the tools their audiences use (Twitter and text messaging)
- monitor social media in an aggressive fashion to be able to discern trends, reputational threats and identify/dispel false rumours and information
- and remember, citizens will always be first ... be first on the scene, be first to warn loved ones and first to put out their opinion about what's happened and your response ...