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BBC Health is reporting that several Japanese doctors wrote to the Lancet, telling of how they used social media sites such as Twitter to communicate with their patients during and after the earthquake.

“Forming a supply chain for such drugs in the earliest stages of the disaster was difficult; however we found that social networking services could have a useful role.”

Social media is becoming an important communication element before and after disasters. Communicators are using the tools to alert public about approaching disasters, and then using those tools to get assistant to survivors. For the Japanese doctors, the goal was not to treat emergency cases, since hospitals tended to patients with urgent needs. Instead, they needed to get medicines to those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and the like.

Since the Caribbean is prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters, are our telecommunications infrastructure reliable enough to operate in their aftermath? Are enough of our citizens engages in social media, such that in case of emergencies, officials are able to communicate with them? Do those who respond to natural disasters–healthcare workers, law enforcement etc–know what communication sites their publics are using?

It may seem arbitrary to want to know where your citizens congregate online. But that knowledge proves invaluable in natural or unnatural disasters.

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