I Used To Have A Radio Show

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Earth Moved

Like millions of other people, I felt the earthquake yesterday. I was actually sitting in front of my computer screen when it began to sway... That and the floor was vibrating! My initial instinct was to turn on the radio. I did that, but the person on the air knew as little as I did at that point. I then turned to my TV and frantically searched through the news channels to learn more about what just happened. Of course, we now expect instant explanations, don't we? It took a few minutes, but the news channels were up and running with earthquake coverage.

On the Internet however, eyewitness accounts were instantaneous. Within an hour, there must have been dozens of YouTube videos - not of the earthquake, but of people talking about it! Twitter was overloaded at times, and Google reported huge traffic as people searched for information.

Indeed, we might assume that the days of gatekeeper-controlled information are over. Maybe not. You can have a million people posting about what they see or just saw, but in times of emergency, you need trusted sources of information.

We also saw cell phone communications infrastructure go down or be pressed to the limit in Ottawa yesterday following the quake. We have seen this happen before in many places during emergency situations. And we've also seen overloads of Internet resources happen many times, just like that of Twitter.

One other thing to consider is that during extreme emergencies, you may lose power and communications. You may not be able to go online or even place a phone call. Your best source of information once more may just be the simplest one of all: radio. We saw this back in 1998 during the ice storm. Granted, the Internet was nothing compared to what it is today, but it wouldn't have mattered, because power and phone lines were down for millions of people. Their only true source of information came from battery powered radios. And ever radio stations themselves got knocked off the air.

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