By choice or by chance
First Monday

By choice or by chance: How the Internet is used to prepare for, manage, and share information about emergencies by Laurie Putnam

Abstract
Access to reliable information is essential for emergency managers, whether they’re facing tornados or terrorist attacks. How well information is managed before, during, and after a disaster can have a direct influence on how well the crisis is managed.

Today the Internet plays a recurring role in all phases of emergency information management. As a communication system and an information repository, a strategic tool and a populist medium, the Internet can be a powerful element in crisis situations. It has been readily used in recent crises and it will, no doubt, be used in the next emergency, by choice or by chance. The choice must be made to use it well.

This article explores the implications of the Internet for agencies that work to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to natural and human–made disasters. It also looks at implications of the Internet for members of the general public who are directly or indirectly affected by disasters.

Contents

Managing emergency information
Internet applications
Internet complications
What next?

 


 

Managing emergency information

Disasters, by nature, are largely unexpected and unavoidable events. Today we know where the earthquake faults are buried and where the climate is conducive to tornadoes or typhoons. But we don’t know, with any degree of precision or certainty, when the earth will shake, where the mud will slide, what path the tornado will take — or, for that matter, which hazardous materials will spill, where the plane will crash, or how the terrorists will attack. Yet we do know one thing: When disaster strikes, there will be an urgent need for reliable information. How well information is managed before, during, and after a disaster can have a direct influence on how well the crisis is managed.

Today the Internet plays a recurring role in all phases of emergency information management. If its role is well defined, the Internet can support crisis managers with new and powerful capabilities. At its best, the Internet supplies research material on demand, offers a dynamic system for information sharing and collaboration, and allows nearly instantaneous communication across time zones and national boundaries. At its worst, the Internet can compound a crisis. Complications emerge when misinformation is e–mailed around the world, when well–intended amateur relief efforts disrupt the business of official relief agencies, and when the network just isn’t accessible because of power outages, equipment shortages, language barriers, or government restrictions.

While technology can help make us safer and better informed, technological dependencies can make us more vulnerable. “The issues that have emerged from the 11 September terrorist attacks vividly illustrate that the Internet serves the best and worst of humanity,” noted the UCLA Internet Report 2001. “Terrorists may have used the Internet to communicate and plan their attacks, but online services aided the recovery and created a network of outreach that brought the world closer together in an unprecedented outpouring of support.”

 

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Internet applications

Information flows through all phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery [1]. Before an actual emergency occurs, information feeds the research, education, and planning activities that help agencies and individuals prepare for potential disasters. During and after a crisis, accurate information is needed quickly — by officials who must determine the best response, by victims who need assistance, by members of the public who want to find out what’s happening or offer support, and by reporters who broadcast the news. The Internet is already being used to support many of these information needs.

Research, preparedness, and training

In the spaces between disasters, emergency managers detail plans and document procedures, form partnerships and train personnel, anticipate problems and run practice drills. They research and prepare. Those with Internet connections can access information about government mandates, investigate funding sources, pursue online training, and even engage in preparedness exercises from remote locations at relatively low costs. As Granger (2000) pointed out, “Once a disaster starts to unfold, it is too late to start looking for the information needed to manage it.”

The Web can be a wellspring of resources. Official government and academic Web sites provide scientific databases and track geologic and climatic conditions that might lead to natural disasters [2]. Relief agencies offer public information about disasters and how to prepare for them. Meta–sites, like the Global Emergency Management System from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provide links to a variety of information sources on emergency management. FEMA even conducts Internet–based drills and emergency services exercises to support planning and training efforts. And a number of agencies and institutions offer Internet–based training, including distance education courses and virtual conferences on emergency preparedness and response. The first fully Internet–based Disaster Prevention and Limitation Conference, convened by the U.K.’s University of Bradford in 1996, allowed presenters to post papers on Web sites and discuss them with participants online.

Web–based current awareness and other information services can be especially useful for practitioners in the public and private sectors. Organizations like the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) serve emergency managers by issuing flows of information — filtered, validated, and integrated so it will be meaningful and useful. Through an emergency managers’ intranet, the PDC supplies specialized information products such as country and situation primers, weather reports and imagery, tsunami travel time and evacuation maps, and storm tracking and flood inundation maps. The PDC’s area of responsibility covers 52 percent of the Earth’s surface in and around the Pacific and Indian Oceans — an area where, statistically, 70 percent of the world’s natural disasters occur.

Professional communications and agency coordination

Before, during, and after a disaster, Internet communications and databases offer new ways for crisis managers to collaborate. The community of workers active in disaster services — government officials, Salvation Army officers, firefighters, hospital staff, school administrators — simply can’t be effective without communication and mutual aid. The Internet can be used to connect people and transmit reports within branches of large international organizations like the Red Cross, as well as to connect colleagues in different agencies that provide similar or complementary services. The Internet can also link agencies with volunteers and victims. Ultimately, stronger agency connections can result in more timely response and integrated service when disaster strikes.

For ongoing professional communication, the Internet provides a quick and relatively inexpensive way for emergency managers to stay in touch. Official meetings take time, and conferences are rare. Field–based workers, managing with small budgets and working in relative isolation from colleagues in other regions, form a scattered community of specialists. With Internet features like e–mail, file transfer, Web–based newsletters, and listservs such as Networks in Emergency Management (nets–em), they can exchange information, ideas, and experiences across agency lines and national borders. The Internet also offers ways to connect experts who specialize in even narrower fields, such as evacuation and sheltering, damage assessment, or disaster mental health services.

Some organizations and Web sites specialize in agency coordination. ReliefWeb, for example, is an online clearinghouse for those who need reliable and timely information on humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters. ReliefWeb’s goal is to strengthen the response capacity of the humanitarian relief community by providing time–critical reports, maps, and contribution data so relief workers can make informed decisions about logistics, funding, and contingency planning. ReliefWeb is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an international body that coordinates priorities, efforts, and information for all sorts of agencies involved with relief work. ReliefWeb users come from government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, and other organizations in more than 170 different countries.

Fundraising

Charities concerned with the provision of disaster services are often required to raise large amounts of money on short notice to support their relief efforts. On an ongoing basis, the Internet can be used to help publicize such organizations, generating awareness of their good works and providing a research tool for information about foundations and other grant sources. After a disaster, the Internet can help agencies let the public know what kinds of donations are needed and how to contribute. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example, currently accepts online donations in U.S. dollars, Swiss francs, and Euros.

The Internet can be used to attract donors in compelling ways. One recent study found that the use of “highly emotive advertising imagery” may exert “powerful influences on donation decisions” and serve as “the most effective [method] for raising large amounts of money in a short period” (Bennett and Kottasz, 2000). The graphical capabilities of the Web may lend the Internet to such fundraising promotions. Another study proposed that the Internet could be used to target a new, young, and computer–literate donor base, people who are more likely to be well educated, have higher incomes, and be relatively comfortable with e–commerce — and perhaps willing to enter their credit card numbers online for a good cause (Johnson, 1999).

Following the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, employees of online retailer Amazon.com voluntarily converted the company’s home page and electronic purchasing system into a user–friendly mechanism for collecting Red Cross donations. In the first 24 hours, the site received nearly 41,000 donations totaling US$1.18 million. By the time the effort concluded, people from more than 120 countries had contributed a total of more than US$6.8 million toward the disaster relief effort (American Red Cross, 2002).

Crisis communications

Communications are most critical while disaster operations are in progress, and a mix of media may be used to get messages to the right people at the right moments. Crisis managers who need immediate, person–to–person communications are likely to reach for a telephone or a short–wave radio. But when data must be recorded or transmitted, they’re likely to reach for a keyboard. For relief workers in areas where Internet connections are available and functioning, e–mail can be used as a backup to phone communications and the Internet can become a ready source for maps, situation reports, and weather conditions. E–mail, online forms, and Web sites may be used to report on the number of people sheltered in evacuation centers, to publicize the types of donations needed, to broadcast “Have you seen my son?” pleas, and to post “I am alive” messages.

When voice communications were severely disrupted after the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, the data–based Internet became “the medium of choice” for communications about the status and needs of the affected region (Zincir–Heywood and Heywood, 2000).

During disasters the most prolific Internet users may now be the online masses. For members of the public and the mass media, particularly those outside the directly affected area, the Internet can become a source of information about a disaster’s effects and the subsequent response operations. Some agencies will deliver live, online status briefings to the media and the public. Online discussion groups can offer public ways to communicate about the event, and e–mail can become the means for gathering news of friends and relatives. Gruntfest and Weber (1998) draw a comparison between today’s use of the Internet and the popular use of Citizens’ Band (CB) radios in the 1970s, when members of the public used CBs to determine the status of friends and relatives and to offer various kinds of support in emergency situations. “The emotionally comforting setting that the CB radio offered 20 years ago is replicated in more rich and more interactive terms by the Internet today,” said Gruntfest and Weber.

While e–mail lets individuals make their own connections, official online systems can also reconnect people separated by emergencies. The Family News Network of the International Committee of the Red Cross offers a mechanism for locating people who have been displaced by disasters or international conflicts. Posted on the Internet are vital statistics, including the date and location that news of the missing person was last reported. Anyone with reliable information about the missing person’s status is urged to contact the Red Cross so the information can be passed on to family members. These international “disaster welfare inquiries,” once handled manually, can reach a much wider audience when they are handled by the Internet.

Some organizations and Web sites specialize in collecting and distributing disaster–related news. The Reuters Foundation’s AlertNet, for example, provides news, communications, and logistics services to the public and the international disaster relief community. Drawing on Reuters’ charter to deliver news with journalistic speed, accuracy, and objectivity, AlertNet aims to provide reliable information in a timely manner. AlertNet also maintains an international register of aid suppliers; a secure environment in which relief workers can exchange information; databases of jobs, training events, and contacts in the disaster relief community; and background information relevant to disaster relief.

11 September 2001

After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, the Internet was used for emergency communications by officials and citizens in the U.S. and around the world. Discussion boards were flooded with messages, and e–mail joined distant friends and family. According to a study by the UCLA Center for Communication Policy (2002), 57.1 percent of American e–mail users — more than 100 million people — received or sent e–mail messages of emotional support, messages of concern for others, or questions about victims of the attacks. The survey also found that 22.9 percent of Internet users received e–mail messages of support or sympathy from outside the U.S.

Yet immediately after the disaster, even for usual Internet users, the primary communications tool was the telephone (Rainie and Kalsnes, 2001). People turned to e–mail when they couldn’t reach friends and family by phone, or to connect and reconnect with people they may not have tried to contact by phone. For breaking news, most people turned to their television sets rather than their computers.

Eventually, though, the Web became “dominated by reactions to September 11 events” and 69 percent of Internet users went online to obtain information related to the terror attacks or their aftermath (Rainie, et al., 2002; Rainie and Kalsnes, 2001). In the following weeks and months, disaster–related transactions went online: Charity Web sites collected credit card donations over the Web, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center solicited reports of terrorist activity through online forms. Commemorative sites and images appeared, and collections of resources were posted by government agencies and media outlets, libraries and research organizations, businesses and individuals [3]. People used the Internet to react, respond, and report. “Do–it–yourself journalism has been a staple of Internet activity for years,” according to Rainie (2002), “and the terrorist attacks gave new prominence to the phenomenon.” The Internet became a populist medium for news, commentary, and action.

 

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Internet complications

While the Internet can enhance communications, its breakdown, inaccessibility, or misuse can cause confusion and waste time when there is no time to be wasted. Emergency operations linked to the Internet may be disabled by infrastructure limitations, governmental restrictions, inadequate plans, questionable information, and fragile technologies.

At a 1997 international conference on “Harnessing the Internet for Disasters and Epidemics,” participants raised issues affecting their ability to use the Internet for improving crisis management. Concerns included the high cost of technology, a lack of content in local languages, and governmental controls on information exchange. “The most significant obstacle impeding widespread Internet usage was the widening gap between those with unlimited access and those whose access to information and new technologies was restricted by economic, linguistic, cultural, or administrative constraints,” said the Pan American Health Organization’s report on the conference (1998). “Without direct communication between and among decision–makers, and without a free flow of reliable information among all involved, effective contingency planning and emergency response are at risk.”

Infrastructure limitations

There are some basic problems with the idea of depending on the Internet for emergency communications: Disasters, whether natural or human made, have a tendency to disrupt communications systems. Disasters often occur in developing countries with inadequate telecommunications infrastructures and relatively few computers; phone service may be limited under the best of circumstances. In non–profit organizations, donated technology may be outdated, mismatched, and inadequately supported. Volunteer personnel may not be trained to tap into online resources. Wireless systems, computers, and skilled technicians may not be available in crisis situations. Relief workers in the field may not be anywhere near computers or other Internet–enabled devices. In devastated areas, short–wave radios are likely to be more common and reliable than Internet connections.

As Quarantelli (1997) pointed out, the most vulnerable often have the fewest resources: Up to 90 percent of disasters occur “in developing societies that by definition already lag in most dimensions of modern life” [4]. Even in developed countries, technology is unevenly distributed: Within any given nation, there are very often digital divisions between those who do and don’t have access to technology. As the Pan American Health Organization (1996) noted, Internet democratization “does have certain limits, since the Internet is reserved for those who are computer literate (and equipped) and have access to a reliable telephone line. Not every disaster manager is that fortunate.” Even in the resource-rich United States, 43 percent of Internet users reported having at least some trouble accessing the Web sites they wanted to consult for news immediately following New York’s World Trade Center attacks (Rainie and Kalsnes, 2001).

Governmental restrictions

In many countries, government control of e–mail use, Internet access, and Web content may limit the effectiveness and availability of the Internet as a tool for emergency managers. Internet channels may be blocked: The profusion of online news and information has prompted governments in all parts of the world to restrict access and content in the name of national security and public protection. A Freedom House assessment of the Internet found that many countries — developing and developed, democratic and not — regulate citizens’ access to the Internet, monitor and imprison users for “sedition,” or pass laws to control Web content (Sussman, 2001). Of the 131 countries studied, 55 had “moderately restrictive” Web policies and 18 had the “most restrictive” policies. Only 58 countries were deemed “least restrictive,” providing liberal access to the Web and little if any content control. After the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the U.S. and other national governments began to impose new restrictions on Web content and increase surveillance of e–mail messages. In late 2001, at least 13 U.S. federal agencies and three American state governments removed material from their Web sites, citing concerns that the information might be useful to terrorists (Sussman, 2002; Rainie, et al., 2002).

Ironically, restrictions that purport to protect citizens can limit the potential of the Internet to minimize the same citizens’ suffering and loss during a disaster. The same Internet technologies that could help stimulate developing economies and improve health care standards could also be used to educate individuals about potential hazards and support vital relief efforts.

Systemic complexities

In the places where Internet information flows freely, users may see the Web as a familiar place, e–mail as a daily activity, and computers as household appliances. The Internet creates new ways for people to participate in the world, a new means to share their ideas and amplify their voices. Grassroots campaigns, moved online, can become powerful forces. Local news can raise global issues. Amateur relief efforts can have an impact. It’s within this new context that emergency operations must be carried out, and the emergency services community must be prepared to work within that context.

The system that deals with complex emergencies is, in itself, a complex system. It’s a social system with established decision–making structures, a set of agencies with prepared action plans and mutual aid agreements, a group of people with defined roles. This is a working community of practice. Despite the unpredictable nature of disasters, the community members share an understanding of how they will interact and how response operations will be carried out. They are collectively trained to deal with the unexpected. Yet they may be unprepared to deal with the activity unleashed by the Internet.

The Internet expands the human network participating in the emergency situation. In earlier times, people might have read about a faraway flood in the newspaper and mailed in a monetary contribution. Today they log on to the Internet, send e–mail around the world, build a commemorative Web site, and organize a campaign to collect and contribute old computers. While this greater human network can enhance support, it can also complicate relief operations. After the 2001 earthquake in western India, official and unofficial Web sites emerged to solicit donations, communicate relief needs, connect people seeking information on victims, and coordinate relief logistics (Madhavan, 2001). The effort to collect donations was so successful that the outpouring of aid was almost overwhelming, creating great logistical challenges for relief workers (Bryson, 2001).

The ad hoc groups that spring up during disasters, while often crucial in dealing with crisis–time needs, can complicate coordination among organizations chartered with relief work (Quarantelli, 1997). In a crisis, managing chaos means decisions must be made quickly and the authority of decision–makers must be recognized. Yet on the open Internet, information flows become less clear, less hierarchical, and more complex. As Quarantelli noted, “The existence of better communication facilities does not necessarily lead in itself to a better exchange of knowledge and intelligence, and/or a greater understanding of what is occurring.”

Questionable content

Questionable content can add to the confusion. Today the Internet serves as a research and information distribution system for journalists, politicians, citizens, and terrorists alike. Anyone with Internet capabilities can access public databases, post messages, and transmit their opinions across great distances to many people at a time. Information can be widely shared, and misinformation can be widely spread. In a crisis, the circulation of unreliable, outdated, or excessive information is not uncommon.

Rumors are commonly circulated when a disaster strikes, and the Internet can deliver faulty information as speedily as it delivers accurate information. For the first few days after Japan’s 1995 Kobe earthquake, more than 70 percent of the postings to related newsgroups contained rumors — information that was received indirectly rather than learned or experienced firsthand (Shinoda, et al., 1996). Much of what is initially reported about disasters can turn out to be inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading. After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, “the Web provided a broad catalog of facts and fancy” related to the events (Rainie, et al., 2002). One widely circulated story reported that, in 1654, Nostradamus had predicted the fall of New York’s twin towers. “Nostradamus” became search engine Google’s seventh most frequently entered search term on the day of the attacks (Wiggins, 2001).

A number of Web sites are now devoted to verifying or debunking such rumors, which can divert public attention from more substantive issues [5].

Not surprisingly, information overload can also be a problem. In already chaotic situations, access to masses of Web pages can be overwhelming for the public as well as for emergency managers. When users don’t have the time or the means to filter and focus relevant information, the Internet can bring more complexity than understanding. “The computer–based revolution seems certain in many situations to produce more information than can be handled during crises,” said Quarantelli (1997). Ultimately, “there are questions of what is enough and what is relevant knowledge for crises.”

Even as relevant news is filtered and rumors are put to rest, Internet information can be enigmatic. Some once–useful Web sites may outlive their currency, presenting old news, broken links, or misleading trails of obsolete information. Other short–lived, event–related sites may vanish without a trace. But preservationists are at work. With the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, the U.S. Library of Congress aims to protect Internet ephemera, caching collections for future research and historical record. The Wayback Machine’s September 11 archive assembles a selection of sites related to the World Trade Center attacks, catalogs their sources, and records the purposes they served, from advocacy and expression to assistance and information provision.

Technological frailties

All that content is supported by technology — sophisticated electronic equipment that can falter on a calm–weather day in a rich country with plenty of technical specialists nearby. In a disaster situation, it is very possible that communications systems will be disabled or limited, especially if those systems rely on electric power and telephone lines. Relief workers need contingency plans that don’t depend on technology that may not be available when it’s needed most.

Within days of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, messages and images traveled around the world through e–mail, discussion groups, and both news media and homegrown Web sites. But Japanese researchers reported that, during relief and recovery activities, “the Internet and other computer networks did not function as we expected” because of technical difficulties and limitations in the media’s news distribution systems (Shinoda, et al., 1996). The Japanese “I Am Alive” database, a mobile system designed to register information about individuals’ safety, had not yet been used successfully in an actual emergency (Tada, et al., 2000). In New York several years later, online survivor databases set up after the World Trade Center attacks quickly overloaded servers and became laced with false entries.

Still many researchers believe that, with time and effort, the Internet has the potential to become an “information lifeline” in emergency situations (Shinoda, et al., 1996). How can that potential be realized?

 

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What next?

As a communication system and an information repository, a strategic tool and a populist medium, the Internet can influence many aspects of emergency management. When it’s available and accessible, the Internet can be a valuable resource for those who urgently need the right information to make critical decisions, or for those who need a piece of news to relieve their worries about family and friends. For government officials and disaster relief workers, the Internet can provide a resource for preparedness and training information, a means for agency coordination, and a method of collecting contributions. The Internet has been readily used in recent crises and it will, no doubt, be used in the next emergency, by choice or by chance. The choice must be made to use it well.

Fortunately the Internet has publicly revealed its strengths and weaknesses. For emergency managers, the challenge is now to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the Internet, to find ways to engage the technology for disaster preparedness and relief while learning to manage the new risks of a world online. Like any other significant variable, the Internet must be addressed as part of the disaster plan. Internet preparedness is needed.

Internet preparedness means understanding the medium and how people use it, putting the technology to work, and anticipating what might go wrong. No doubt there will be times when the system goes down. Sometimes the flooded villages won’t have electrical power or computer equipment or Internet connections. Sometimes governments won’t allow their citizens to send transnational e–mail or view Web sites that are “public” in other places. And in those other places where the Web is wide open, the millions of accessible public sites may or may not contain true or current or relevant information. Rumors will travel.

For relief organizations, mitigating the Internet’s risks might mean putting stronger technical infrastructures in place. It might mean proactively partnering with technology experts who can set up systems before disaster strikes, be on call to operate those systems in a crisis, and commit to maintaining them over the long term. Or it might mean training a new cadre of communications volunteers equipped with wireless handheld devices.

Understanding the Internet means recognizing that the professional media no longer dominate reportage. While media relationships remain critical, Internet preparedness might require identifying the people and organizations outside of the media who find, filter, verify, organize, and distribute information over the Internet. It might mean collaborating with public libraries, where information professionals collect and post community resources during disasters. It might mean investing resources in cross–agency consortia that have the expertise and focus to manage emergency information on the Internet. It might mean collaborating to build coordinated, dynamic, online databases of donation requests, volunteer needs, and “I am alive” reports.

Anticipating the new issues of the Internet might also mean forming alliances with trustworthy rumor watchdogs that monitor, research, and validate or disprove freeflowing claims. It might mean assigning an Internet community liaison who can step into the Internet world, acknowledge and involve users, and coordinate online public information services. It might lead to a new kind of virtual community education that goes beyond teaching CPR and packing first aid kits.

Like other complex tools used in unpredictable situations, the Internet requires evaluation, training, coordination, and contingency planning. The first challenge for emergency managers is to keep the Internet from becoming part of the next crisis. Then the opportunity becomes one of exploring new possibilities, finding ways to make the Internet useful, and reaching out to the online community. Internet preparedness means building the power of the network into community awareness and response activities.

And, as always, it means having a back–up plan. End of article

 

About the author

Laurie Putnam is a communications consultant and former public information officer for the American Red Cross.
E–mail: laurielputnam [at] aol [dot] com

 

Notes

1. The commonly accepted phases of emergency management include:

  • Mitigation: The long–view stage, prior to the anticipation of an actual disaster, when action is taken to mitigate the scope or severity of a disaster’s impact. Actions might include precautionary measures like bolting a house to its foundation so it might better withstand an earthquake.
  • Preparedness: The phase prior to the anticipation of an actual disaster when action is taken to plan and prepare for emergency response and recovery. Actions might include developing response plans and back–up systems, establishing mutual aid agreements among agencies, and stocking first aid kits.
  • Response: The phase during or immediately following a disaster when action is taken to respond to the emergency. Actions might include providing emergency medical services, sheltering victims, or conducting search–and–rescue operations.
  • Recovery: The phase following an emergency when action is taken to recover from the effects of a disaster. Actions might include restoring utility services or providing loans for the rebuilding of homes.

2. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site, for example, reports the magnitude and location of global earthquakes in “near real time,” within seconds of the quake.

3. For just three of many examples, see the September 11 Resources page on ResearchBuzz, the September 11 & Beyond page on the Librarians’ Index to the Internet, and the NYPL Responds: Meeting Community Needs in the Wake of Tragedy page from the New York Public Library.

4. Quarantelli (1997) identified the following “problematical aspects of the information/communication revolution for disaster planning and research”:

  • The probability that the “rich will become richer” in dealing with disasters.
  • The possibility that technology that is a “means” will be turned into an “end” in itself.
  • The inevitable information overload problem.
  • The loss of, or outdated, information.
  • The greater likelihood of the diffusion of inappropriate disaster–relevant information.
  • The implications of even further diminution of non–verbal communication.
  • The likelihood that intra– and interlevel group communication will be made even more difficult.
  • The negative consequences of the probable acceleration of fads and fashions associated with computer use.
  • The kinds of general social infrastructures and cultures necessary for the adequate functioning of disaster–relevant technology.
  • The certainty of computer system–related disasters.

5. For two examples, see the 9-11 Special Report on Purportal.com and Rumors of War from the Urban Legends Reference Pages at Snopes.com.

 

References

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American Red Cross, 2002. “September 11, 2001: Unprecedented Events, Unprecedented Response,” at http://www.redcross.org/, accessed 17 September 2002.

Roger Bennett and Rita Kottasz, 2000. “Emergency Fund–Raising for Disaster Relief,” Disaster Prevention and Management, volume 9, number 5, pp. 352–359. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09653560010361393

Donna Bryson, 2001. “Disaster Groups in India Worry About Fair Distribution of Aid: Crisis Overloads System with Outpouring of Relief,” San Jose Mercury News (5 February), p. 4A.

Ken Granger, 2000. “An Information Infrastructure for Disaster Management in Pacific Island Countries,” Australian Journal of Emergency Management, volume 15, number 1, pp. 20–32, and at http://www.ema.gov.au/fs-publications.html, accessed 17 September 2002.

Eve Gruntfest and Marc Weber, 1998. “Internet and Emergency Management: Prospects for the Future,” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, volume 16, number 1, pp. 55–72.

International Committee of the Red Cross at http://www.icrc.org/, accessed 17 September 2002. The Family News Network page is at http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at http://www.ifrc.org/, accessed 17 September 2002. Online donations are accepted at http://www.ifrc.org/helpnow/donate/donate_response.asp.

Internet Archive Wayback Machine from the U.S. Library of Congress at http://www.archive.org/, accessed 17 September 2002. The September 11 collection is at http://september11.archive.org/.

Internet Fraud Complaint Center of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation at http://www.ifccfbi.gov/, accessed 9 September 2002.

Martin Johnson, 1999. “Non–Profit Organisations and the Internet,” First Monday volume 4, number 2, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/650/565, accessed 17 September 2002.

Librarians’ Index to the Internet from the California State Library at http://lii.org/, accessed 19 September 2002. The September 11 & Beyond page is at http://lii.org/911/.

Narayanan Madhavan, 2001. “Internet Helps Global Indians Rally for Quake Aid,” Reuters (1 February).

New York Public Library at http://www.nypl.org/, accessed 17 September 2002. The NYPL Responds: Meeting Community Needs in the Wake of Tragedy page is at http://www.nypl.org/branch/response.html.

Pacific Disaster Center at http://www.pdc.org/, accessed 17 September 2002.

Pan American Health Organization, 1998. “Crisis Management on the Internet: A Snapshot of Progress in the Region,” Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the Americas, number 71, pp. 1, 7, and at http://www.paho.org/english/ped/ped198e.pdf, accessed 17 September 2002.

Pan American Health Organization, 1996. “The Internet: Tending to the Basics,” Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the Americas, number 65, pp. 1, 7, and at http://www.paho.org/english/ped/ped196e.pdf, accessed 17 September 2002.

Purportal at http://www.purportal.com/, accessed 20 September 2002. The 9–11 Special Report is at http://www.purportal.com/special/9-11/.

E.L. Quarantelli, 1997. “Problematical Aspects of the Information/Communication Revolution for Disaster Planning and Research: Ten Non–Technical Issues and Questions,” Disaster Prevention and Management, volume 6, number 2, pp. 94–106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09653569710164053

Lee Rainie, Susannah Fox, Mary Madden, Steven Schneider, Karen Foot, Alex Halavais, Adrienne Massanari, Elena Larsen, Erica Siegl and Meghan Dougherty, 2002. “One Year Later: September 11 and the Internet,” Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project; also at http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=69, accessed 17 September 2002.

Lee Rainie and Bente Kalsnes, 2001. “The Commons of the Tragedy: How the Internet Was Used by Millions after the Terror Attacks to Grieve, Console, Share News, and Debate the Country’s Response,” Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project; also at http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=46, accessed 17 September 2002.

ReliefWeb from the United Nations at http://www.reliefweb.int/, accessed 17 September 2002.

ResearchBuzz at http://www.researchbuzz.com/, accessed 9 September 2002. The September 11 Resources page is at http://www.researchbuzz.com/911/.

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Editorial history

Paper received 30 September 2002; accepted 25 October 2002.


Copyright © 2002, First Monday.

Copyright © 2002, Laurie Putnam.

By choice or by chance: How the Internet is used to prepare for, manage, and share information about emergencies
by Laurie Putnam.
First Monday, Volume 7, Number 11 - 4 November 2002
http://www.firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1007/928





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