Then it occurred to me that maybe the boiler had blown up (I live on the third floor in a NYC apartment building) or that a water main in the street had erupted. (This has happened too.) In the front hall, the china cabinet was shaking, and I yelled to my husband (who was home), “call the super,” while I went to knock on our next door neighbor’s door because I thought maybe he was doing something, um, earth shattering. Anyway, Kevin wasn’t home, and when I got back into the apartment, my husband said, “Marino said maybe it’s an earthquake.” By the time I got back to my computer, Twitter had confirmed it. While minutes before everyone had been tweeting about the fall of Tripoli, and I was especially caught up in the drama of CNN reporter Matthew Chance who was being held hostage at the Rixos hotel (now that’s a made-for-TV movie waiting to happen), now everyone was talking about the earthquake and within seconds I knew where the epicenter had been and had heard from people as far north as Toronto and as far south as Atlanta who had felt the rumblings. Then the earthquake jokes started, but within a couple hours, Twitter was once again concerned with Libya and other random stuff.
At first FEMA commended New Yorkers for using social media to check on their loved ones. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and that’s why YOU should be on Twitter. People in California pooh-pooh New Yorkers for even twitching at what was basically a tremor of 2.0 magnitude. But this was OUR earthquake. And then The New York Times “City Room Blog” published this: New York Earthquake Showed New Yorkers Had Bad Instincts – NYTimes.com http://nyti.ms/n4v4DN. Oops. Seems like all those buildings that evacuated into the street—bad idea. If this had been a real earthquake, glass could have gone flying and killed people. Ask anyone what to do in an earthquake: “Stand in a doorway,” is the old advice—something about which there’s some debate. Still, you don’t go out into the street. Then again, New Yorker have imprinted in their minds now all the World Trade Center workers who, on 9/11, were told to stay at their desks. And so . . . at least we got the Twitter part right.
Now, as if the East Coast hasn’t had enough, we’re about to get hit by a hurricane, some relatively rare in the Northeast. Again, people took to twitter. Lots of jokes. I posted a YouTube video of Jerry Garcia singing “Goodnight Irene.”
There has been much good information all day—links to maps of the hurricane path, to emergency management, and this:
A young reporter who volunteered to go to North Carolina and, I guess, storm chase, posted this:
Anyway, right now, with Irene barreling up the coast, there’s still time to get on Twitter so you can get links to evacuation maps, storm track maps, and all kinds of other important information. At another time, I’ll do a more in-depth blog about Twitter full of tips and tricks. But here’s how to add to your disaster management in three easy steps:
- Join Twitter. Go to www.twitter.com. You’ll need to chose your Twitter name, or “handle.” Lots of people use some form of their real names and sometimes put a “score” between them, like @John_Smith. If you have a common name, it will probably already be taken. So get creative. If you think you might in the future want to use your Twitter account, choose something appropriate, like @BestPlumber. Or you can be clever. I was clever (@Wordwhacker) and now I’m stuck with a handle that has nothing to do with my “brand.” Oh, well. But you can change your Twitter name or have a second account. Oh, you’ll need an email address.
- Fill in bio; put in picture (avatar). You can make your bio brief: “Susan Pancakes loves food. She’s the Pancake Queen.” But put something in; otherwise, you’ll look like a “bot,” that is, an robot account that does nothing but cause trouble and make Twitter Spam. Also, put a picture in. (Pictures are called “avatars” in Twitter, except nobody says that. They say “picture.) Nobody trusts a Twitter egg, the default avatar. If you don’t want to use your own picture (privacy issues? OK, I get it.), Google “daisies,” pull the picture from Google onto your desktop or save it in your files, and then select that.
- Start following people. Twitter is only as good as the people you follow. Since we’re thinking about emergencies right now, start by following your local radio and TV stations. Go to the “search” box on Twitter and type in the name. Twitter will then go to a page with “top tweets” that concern anything close to what you typed in. On the right side of the page, you’ll see a list of possible accounts. You’ll probably recognize the real one. (Most public figures/organizations have “verified” accounts, so you’ll see a blue check mark.) Click on the name, and then click on follow. Also, you can follow national news organizations, such as CNN (a good one), FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS. See if your local newspaper has an account. You’ll probably also find reporters with accounts. You may want to follow @AARP (you are a boomer, after all). If you want, follow movie stars or Steven Colbert (@Steveathome). Follow anyone you know who is on twitter. For people you know, send them a tweet to let them know you’re on Twitter, so they’ll follow back. Tweet me (@wordwhacker), mention you read this, and I’ll follow you. Eventually, the more you interact, the more followers you’ll get. You’ll also get a lot of “bots,” but that’s another lesson. Meanwhile, here’s a good link from @PBS: http://ow.ly/6erJZ.
Some other things to think about as we go into the first hurricane to make landfall in the USA in three years:
- If you lose electricity, your electric phones won’t work. Now’s the time to find that old model that just plugs into the wall.
- Charge your cell phone. It’s possible that cell phone towers will experience problems too, but it’s also likely that you’ll have cell reception.
- Make sure you have jugs of water in your refrigerator and a couple of pails in your bathrooms. If the power goes out, eventually, toilets won’t flush.
- Know where your flashlights are in case the power goes out. That old radio that works on batteries? Find it and put in new batteries.
- Keep in touch. If you know anyone in the hurricane path who lives alone or who is infirm, check up on him or her, often.
- Call your kids. They worry.
As always, please leave comments on my website! I love comments. You can ask questions, too, because as long as my power stays on (and as I am in the Berkshires, it will go out tonight), I’ll be online Twittering away my time. Stay safe everyone.