* Alan Spicer – First of all I’ve been watching all of the news of the Boston Marathon Bombing – and the take down of the suspects, as well as the Texas Explosion … and my prayers go out for those affected.
A lot of the FBI and the Police finding the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing has to do with the Internet community … a lot of persons pulled down pictures and videos and searched for suspicious persons in those medial items and flagged a lot of them. I believe the Federal and other police used this HELP to facilitate their information seeking, and take down of the suspects. In that light Brian Lasusa had a post that readers of InformationWeek’s email bulletins got yesterday … I figured it was worth repeating on here. He may have said it better than I could have. I found it on the web at:
Words can’t even begin to describe our collective sadness at what happened this week in Boston and West, Texas. Though the tragedies are very different in nature, one thing that they have in common is the ongoing social media responses.
A quick search of #WestTX on Twitter pulls up the latest news, info on missing family members, startling pictures and words of support. Meanwhile, in Boston, people took to Facebook and Twitter to keep friends and family updated on their safety in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. Days later, social media profiles are ablaze with shares of police alerts on possible suspect vehicles, updates on neighborhood lockdowns and more.
While many of the posts have been incredibly helpful, there’s always a flutter of nonsense: Misinformation — both accidental and intentional — can easily devalue the genuine efforts of concerned people. Case in point: Several individuals identified as suspects quickly found themselves part of a social media witch hunt. To their credit, they quickly went to authorities to clear themselves.
It’s easy to let emotions get a strong hold, especially when the faces of the victims are repeatedly flashed on our screens. Unfortunately, kneejerk reactions do very little to help dispense valuable information and only make things worse.
In a disaster, natural or man-made, the best thing a social media “volunteer” can do is ignore mainstream media and share information from official sources such as the Red Cross or police/government profiles.
Do you find social media tend to be helpful or detrimental in a crisis situation? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(* Alan Spicer – P.S. – I didn’t “Social Media” any about the above tragedy situations … I didn’t Tweet, I didn’t Facebook, or anything. But I do like to look up locations of all sorts of things [my Ham Radio Contacts is a big one] on Google Earth. I did look up the location of the last suspect being found hiding in the boat … and look around via Google Earth at the surroundings – including M.I.T. and Harvard Universities. The Google Earth imagery is from 2010 – and shows the house with a Boat Trailer but not a boat … at the time of that imagery. It was also interesting the surroundings of that house – I thought seemingly a bit commercial in nature – perhaps the location of that house made his decision and entrance to that location for hiding a little bit easier?)
* Another P.S. I almost forgot – I got an email from the Amateur Radio Community (one of the older Social Media *things* that people tend to forget about these days) related to the Boston Marathon Bombing …
Subj: Radio Amateurs Provide Communication Support in Boston Marathon Bombings
Radio Amateurs Provide Communication Support in Boston Marathon Bombings
As has happened many times in years past, over 200 Amateur Radio operators participated in communications for the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013. Unlike prior challenging situations such as very warm weather for the runners or other weather-related challenges, this year’s marathon will be remembered for the bombings that took place at the finish line. Despite this heinous act, professional first responders, medical volunteers from the American Red Cross that staffed the route, and Amateur Radio operators performed magnificently in the face of adversity.
“Within minutes, cell phone systems became overloaded and making phone calls and text messages was difficult. Amateur Radio operators performed communication duties under duress and performed admirably. No Amateur Radio volunteers were injured on the course in this terrible act,” said Steve Schwarm, W3EVE, who is the Amateur Radio Course Communication Coordinator and associated with a consortium of clubs and groups known as Marathon Amateur Radio Communications (MARC).
“At the finish line net control, which was only 400 feet from the initial blast, we heard the explosion. I poked my head outside to confirm what I thought it was and saw the white smoke. We immediately knew what had happened and commenced a roll call of all ham operators and medical tents. State Police authorities initially ordered us to lock down and post a ham for security watch outside the net control trailer. Thankfully none of our people were hurt,” said Paul Topolski, W1SEX, Amateur Radio Finish Line Coordinator.
Following the explosion and roll call, Topolski stated that they began pulling together updates and sent the information via the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Web-EOC software tool and provided updates via Amateur Radio. Shortly after sending a few updates both Boston Police and Massachusetts State Police gave the order for the tent area to be evacuated. “In my mind, the course end of things is where a lot of work needed to happen as runners eventually needed to be stopped, congregated and transported to safety and staging areas,” Topolski said. “At the finish line, our job was to check on the safety of our people, provide those initial updates and evacuate per police instructions. Three of our Amateur Radio operators redeployed to the Boston Marathon Course Net Control Center.”
Across the course outside of the finish line after the bombings occurred, first aid stations were consolidated to larger first aid stations to pool runners for pickup and to keep runners warm as there were enhanced tents along the route where runners could be kept warm and hydrated. At the Heartbreak Hill first aid station, amateur operators had a complete base station setup, including a computer, and were prepared to handle health and welfare traffic as required. Several shelters were set up along the route at churches and schools, and Amateur Radio operators from secured first aid stations went to those shelters, providing communications in those areas until runners were moved out of their locations.
“My role at the request of Steve, W3EVE, as event organizer before the race was to shadow the course medical tent coordinator for the Red Cross, Kandi Finch,” said Rob Macedo, KD1CY, who is also the Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator. “It was a challenging position but all organizers on both the Amateur Radio side and Red Cross side said things went well in coordinating during normal race conditions and particularly after the bombings.”
At course net control, which was away from the bombings, ham operators controlled their nets calmly and professionally while also expressing an appropriate level of urgency. Over a dozen amateurs at the net control center pooled together to announce messages and keep status of changes along the course route as required.
“Despite the total lack of warning in this situation, amateurs followed a creed I’ve long since preached since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the mutual aid response to those attacks: ‘blessed are the flexible for they will not get bent out of shape,’” said Steve Schwarm, W3EVE. “Amateurs on the course did what they had to do to assure their own safety and runner safety working with the Red Cross medical people. They did an outstanding job and I was told so by Red Cross organizers as well.”
From an ARES perspective, a heightened state of awareness on the Boston Marathon event is typical, but within 15 minutes of the bombings, Eastern Massachusetts ARES Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, Carl Aveni, N1FY, issued an ARES Stand-By and requested that amateurs give availability for the next 24 hours. Within minutes, 20 amateurs offered their availability.
“In terms of having amateurs within ARES who cannot get directly involved in the marathon, we have a process where we have them monitor in case of a situation like what occurred on Monday. That process paid off and facilitated a rapid response to our request for possible additional support,” said Aveni.
“Additional details and more input to this story are unfolding and will be updated as that information is pulled together,” Macedo said.
–Thanks to Paul Topolski, W1SEX; Steve Schwarm, W3EVE, and Rob Macedo, KD1CY, for the information.
Alan Spicer Marine Telecom
+1 954 683 3426
communications @ marinetelecom.net