London: Social media has great impact on emergency rescue operations as it provides opportunities to interact with people by disseminating relevant information and gathering posted information, a new study says.
"Communication is one of the fundamental tools of emergency management, and it becomes crucial when there are dozens of agencies and organisations responding to a disaster," said Tomer Simon from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are sometimes the only communication medium that survives and the first to recover as seen in disasters that struck the world in recent years.
"Emergency organisations have only started using social media mainly as a response to the presence of the public in them," Simon said.
Emergency managers who were formerly used to one-directional dissemination of information to the population are now exposed to vast amounts of information, originating from the public and typically before formal notifications.
The public was the first to adopt Social Media (SM) in innovative and new ways for their various needs during emergencies.
For instance, the world's first posts on two terrorist incidents in 2013 were shared initially on Twitter - the Boston Marathon bombing and the Westgate mall terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya.
"In an emergency, the public is exposed to large quantities of information without being aware of its validity or risk of misinformation. However, users are typically quick to correct misrepresentation, thus making social media 'self-regulating'," Simon said.
The study was published in the International Journal of Information Management.