In the Spring 2014 edition of the Emergency Communications Organization Journal, I authored an article, “European Emergency Response Services for the All-IP Present and Future” that explored the overlapping functions of social networks and phone networks for emergency and crisis communications.
“Last month a two-year-old boy in Arizona saved his critically injured mother by picking up her iPhone and initiating a Facetime video session to a friend who sent help. One might wonder, when the toddlers of today are adults, will dialing 911/112 services on a landline still be relevant? Do emergency services need to start listening for distress signals from WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter? While this may seem far-fetched, it pays to plan ahead. After all, emergency services networks are still adapting to an innovation that is now nearly 20 years old: Voice over IP.”
Considering the multiplying public health situations the world faces, from civil wars, failing governments to the largest Ebola outbreak in history, the time is ripe for rapid evolution in Emergency telecommunications and increased incorporation of OTT services.
In regions where government services have failed or been incapacitated by a crisis, socially minded Telecom providers and Social Networks can play a big role in partnership with NGOs. Along similar lines, Voxbone serves as the telecommunications partner to the United Nations OCHA for their +888 country code.
Today, Facebook announced Safety Check, a feature that will allow users of the social network to signal to their friends that they are ok if they are in a crisis location. According to Facebook sources, the idea started from observing how people used Facebook in crisis situations, in particular the 2011 Earthquake and resulting Tsunami in Japan. The feature will combine location based services to identify users in the locale of the disaster.