Social media spotlight: Chinese earthquake casualties reduced by 14% with social media
Social media as a genuine life-saving tool has been increasingly brought into the spotlight of late, particularly following Hurricane Sandy when multiple stories emerged revealing the ways social helped in disaster relief efforts. Now, Chinese researchers have demonstrated that social has the potential to save lives ahead of disasters, too.
Last Friday an earthquake hit Chendu, China, where more than 14 million people reside. Local earthquake research and warning organization Chengdu Institute of Care-life managed to send two warning messages to its Weibo site, thanks to a system of 200 detectors that go online whenever a shockwave is picked up.
According to the Institute, earthquake casualties could go down by 14% if a three second warning is issued, rising to 39% for a ten second warning and 63% for a 20 second warning.
The Institute’s director Wang Tun told ZDNet: “The warning is a race against the shockwave. The more seconds we win, the fewer lives would be lost. Our system not only tells you the magnitude of the earthquake, but also how soon it will affect where you live, so people can react accordingly.”
Presently, the warning system has less than 1,000 online followers and only covers the metropolitan area of Chengdu, but Wang acknowledges the enormous life-saving potential it has. “There are over one billion registered users on two major Chinese social websites, the Sina Weibo and the Tencent Weibo. It is now technically practical to warn people of imminent quakes via social media.”