The Internet has changed how information is shared during times of crisis, largely for good (and sometimes for a little bit of bad). While the events in Boston earlier this week were horrific, they certainly won’t be the last given the state of the world. And let’s not forget Mother Nature’s ability to stir up chaos stew with hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. When you find yourself in times of trouble and have Internet access, here are some suggestions that may help you better evaluate the situation at hand:
- Follow the unfolding story on live-update blogs from verified sources like major news organizations, or state and local government sites.
- Twitter, Facebook and Reddit have become places where people share information and these can often be great for getting news through hashtags and official feeds. Viral hoaxes can run rampant on these sites though, so to avoid spreading fertilizer, verify an item with an established news source before retweeting or reposting.
- You may be out of the listening area, but online radio streams, especially the local National Public Radio affiliate or a dedicated news station are often good, solid sources of information. Online sites and apps with live streams for police, fire and emergency scanners may also be useful for finding out if something is going on, but keep in mind, but keep in mind that scanner chatter is often rushed and frantic as officials try to suss out developing situations.
- If you have relatives in the area, text or e-mail them instead of calling during the crisis as not to jam and overload voice-network circuits. In large-scale catastrophes, sites like Google Person Finder may help.
- Beware the online scams that happen during and just after a disaster or man-made tragedy. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brought them out and jackals were looking for people to dupe quickly during the calamity of the Boston Marathon incident. The Department of Justice has a Disaster Fraud Task Force and offers tips for avoiding such scams.
Be safe, be well and be informed.