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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How To: Gather Info on a Local Disaster Fast

Original Article

A few days ago we had a mini disaster in Las Vegas.  Turns out a couple of thugs decided to take their aggression out on the Las Vegas Strip, complete with racing cars and firing guns.  It culminated in an explosion, fire, and three deaths.  Generally when you hear that something is happening--whether from a breaking news announcement on TV, a text from a friend, or a Tweet from the fire department--your first instinct is to find out more.  Is the event happening in your neighborhood?  At a school or workplace of a family member?  Will it impact you, either by changing your route to work or creating the necessity to lock down your home or office?
In all of these cases, you want to find out as much information as quickly as possible.  Here's how:

  • Check Twitter.  I follow a number of first responder agencies in our city, a few news outlets--both local and national--and when in doubt, I simply search the most likely terms in Twitter and can usually come up with people tweeting about what is going on.
  • Check Reddit.  If your city/area has a subreddit, this is often one of the first places that people post "what the heck is going on?" posts quickly followed by others commenting on what they have heard/seen/know.
  • Check your local news services.  This may include tuning in to TV news, checking the local newspapers online, or turning on your car's radio and picking up the local news.
  • Check the national news.  If it is a big enough event, CNN and other national news services will probably pick up on it pretty quickly.
  • Check with the appropriate agency.  If the event has to do with a fire, I can check out our local fire department's website/Facebook page/Twitter account.  If it is something larger--like a storm or earthquake--I would check with NOAA or the USGS website.
  • Text a friend.  If you know an event is happening where you know a friend or family member may be, simply sending them a text may get you the answers you need.  Likewise, check their Facebook page/Twitter feed/Instagram/etc if they are likely to be posting instead of making them take the time to answer you back.
The bottom line is that you need to be able to gather pertinent information about a disaster as quickly as possible so that you will know how to respond.  Using these popular news and information sources can provide just the information you need even faster than traditional news outlets.
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