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The Disaster Management Institute at Carnegie Mellon University is helping incident responders learn to use social media. In this one-on-one interview conducted at Stanford University, host Karl Matzke and Jeannie Stamberger discuss how to write retweetable messages, how to separate legitimate helpers from posers and how to use social media to prevent loss of life.

In one example, the World Bank used teens with cell phones to create GPS-linked maps identifying structures vulnerable to collapse in earthquake-prone areas. In another, during a recent evacuation drill at Stanford University, Stamberger reported that tweets provided useful information that would have taken exhaustive testing to uncover. In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, the Google people-finder application helped connect lost quake victims to the friends and relatives who were looking for them. In another case, Ushahidi encouraged the use of Twitter hashtags #haiti or #haitiquake to report security threats, health emergencies and natural hazards. (Today they are moving these functions to local partners.)

Perhaps the most intriguing research Stamberger is conducting is in how to stop a rumor. Incorrect information travels as quickly as correct information; these researchers seek to tell the good from the bad, and then learn to get truthful information out quickly. Matzke and Stamberger discuss how organizations can join the Disaster Management Initiative, a consortium of practitioners, academics, non-profits, for-profits, volunteers, researchers and other interested parties.

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