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Twitter in Emergencies

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I can remember several episodes from my life in which I was at the emergency room with my wife, son, or daughter, while family members waited anxiously for word. At other times, I was on the waiting end, pacing and wondering exactly what was going on.

Heuer and WellsAs I write this, my friend and colleague Chris Heuer is at the emergency room. He awoke this morning with pain in his arm. He’d gone through some medical issues before but had felt better over the last week. The issue with his arm led him and his wife, Kristie Wells, to head to the hospital, where his blood pressure—which had been 120/80—has spiked to 170/111. At this moment, he’s in the waiting room and has been for a while; the fact that the doctors at Kaiser-Permanente don’t sense an urgent need to treat him is, Kristie hopes, a good sign.

I know all this becuase Chris and Kristie are keeping their connections up to date on events through Twitter. They could, of course, just use the phone, but not to call everyhone who cares about them. I have plenty of experience with that kind of communication:

“Hi, Mom. Here’s the update. Ben split open the skin on his forehead, where there are a lot of blood vessels, which accounts for the bleeding. But he’s okay. They put six stitches in him, and we’ll be leaving soon. Could you call everyone and let them know?”

Mom, however, only calls my great aunt and my brother. She asks my brother to call my sister and a couple cousins, and my great aunt to call a few others. The telephone tree approach is tedious, time-consuming, results in the dissemination of inaccurate information and relies on each individual to do his or her bit.

Twitter’s strength is in its ability to reach everyone who’s interested in you, right now. The same approach can easily work for business—as some businesses have learned.

My thoughts and prayers are with Chris and Kristie right now. Thanks to Twitter, I’m informed enough to know to send them.

(Note: The photo of Chris and Kristie is from Mary Tsao’s Flickr page.)

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