I Think I Just Felt a TweetQuake

East Coast EarthquakeToday when a 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake hit the east coast, social media posts and tweets of all shapes and sizes radiated out from the epicenter as quickly as poorly hung paintings crashed to the floor up and down the east coast.  As soon as it became clear that there wasn’t mass devastation or loss of life the Twitter jokes also started rolling in.


Matthew Inman@Oatmeal Matthew Inman
“goddamn Mid-Atlantic ridge keeps trying to grab my ass” -North America #TectonicPlateProblems


Adam R Garcia

@adamrgarcia Adam R Garcia
Supposedly the Williamsburg earthquake is just, like, totally copying the earthquake that it saw in Portland last spring.


It was just yesterday that a colleague of mine and I were tweeting back and forth about the new iOS including early earthquake push warnings for Japan and how that would be great to see it included in iOS and on the next iPhone for the US as well. I live on the west coast and I am constantly reminded that we could be impacted by a big earthquake so it is of particular interest to me to have a feature like this.

I personally am no stranger to natural disaster type weather and occurrences. I lived in Florida during the 2005  record Hurricane year when they actually got through the entire English alphabet and had to go into the Greek alphabet to continue naming the Tropical Systems that plagued the South East and Gulf Coast that year. After a while, terms said on the news like “Hunker Down” “Duct Tape and Ply-Wood your Windows” and “Buy Gas Now” were turned into drinking games.  I thankfully only experienced a direct hit by a Category 1 and it was pretty intense. We lost power for three days, had no air conditioning,  refrigerated food, or running water during 100 degree 95% humidity weather and saw countless 100 foot tall or more Old Oak Trees up-heave entire walkways as they toppled in our neighborhood. I remember at the time we had filled both of our bathtubs up with fresh water before the storm hit, just in case our water was not potable, only to have our golden retriever jump in and contaminate it. She was trying to submerse herself and cool off from the heat.  At the time we didn’t have children, but I couldn’t imagine how much more difficult it would have been if we did. It also made me acutely aware of how awful it must have been for the people of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.

That hurricane season was before the majority of people had cell phones. I had one at the time had one so I was able to call my family and let them know we were OK. We didn’t have a generator, so I had to use what little battery and gas I had in my car to charge my phone and try to get updates from the radio on the Internet on when we might get power again. Roads were flooded and blocked and gas stations were mostly out of gas due to those who had headed the warning of the news anchors and filled up prior to the storm. We were stuck to ride it out, sweltering at home eating canned green beans.

Looking back there are so many reasons why Geo-location aware mobile apps or notifications could have been monumentally useful. For instance we later learned that there were some places with generators and notifications could have indicated where we could find running water, what locales ones had power for air conditioning or cooling stations, which ones could offer free Internet and which gas stations actually contained gas. This was also the same year as the Katrina devastation and just thinking of all the lives or time it could have saved in Louisiana if they had real-time notifications.

From a prediction and preventative standpoint hurricanes are fickle and hard to pinpoint. The NOAA has top scientists predicting their pathways, but I have seen more than one Hurricane wobble, strengthen or weaken moments before making landfall.  Due to this, having up-to the second notifications could be monumental in saving lives in the event of a Catagory 5 hurricane or even the big earthquake they surely think is bound to hit the west coast. Evacuation routes that are blocked can be avoided, locations of the injured can be pinpointed more readily and Supply needs can be communicated faster and lives can be saved.

That being said, the government and private companies  would be wise to invest heavily in the mobile infrastructure. Today alone I tried over twenty times to reach a friend in DC and was unable to get through due to the high value of calls and traffic on the networks.  What good is location aware data if it can’t get through the system? It’s time to make not only structural infrastructure a priority against national disaster but our mobile infrastructure as well as mobile users are far outpacing any other type of communication method and the public demand and expectation is only going to grow.

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