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Japan Considers '911' Calls From Twitter, Social Networks 116

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-need-helpville dept.
itwbennett writes "The Japanese national Fire and Disaster Management Agency today hosted the first of 3 panels to discuss allowing emergency calls to be placed through social networks. For the event, Twitter's Japanese blog posted entries on how to use the service during emergencies, one of which advised: 'If your circumstances allow, please add #survived to your tweets. This will help when family and friends that are worried about you search on your welfare.'"
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Japan Considers '911' Calls From Twitter, Social Networks

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:39AM (#41175369)
    Acting like these proprietary cloud services are a legitimate case for discussion is disgusting. I find it deplorable that we give these organizations so much attention every time somebody has a horrible idea. If a 911 center is to take calls via the Internet, it needs to be done with some sort of standard, and as the Internet was designed, there is no way that this could be reliably implemented. Case Closed.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:47AM (#41175605)

      Acting like these proprietary cloud services are a legitimate case for discussion is disgusting. I find it deplorable that we give these organizations so much attention every time somebody has a horrible idea.

      Blah blah blah. We're not getting off you're lawn, gramps.

      Despite the rather large noise-to-signal ratio, overall, Twitter has the potential to help disaster management through crowdsourcing. Don't worry, I hate buzzwords like "crowdsourcing" just as much as the next slashbot. Bear with me.... First responders for big disasters have a big problem: where do you spend your resources? You start by sending out search teams, but big cities like New Orleans are, well, big. You just do not have enough manpower to rapidly triage the whole city to know where you should spend your resources. So you guess, and you put triage teams on the 911 lines to take calls, but again, there are many more callers than 911 operators, and those operators need to manually enter a lot of information. This is where Twitter comes in. Citizens that are hurt, or that come across people that are hurt, make tweets like "Man lying hurt, legs crushed under car near Second and Main". Volunteer crowdsourcers re-tweet these events in a format a computer can easily parse, such as "Man crushed by car #location ". A computer gathers all these tweets and presents them in a nice summary format. Even better, this is already being done:
      http://www.technologyreview.com/view/419368/how-twitter-helps-in-a-disaster/ [technologyreview.com]
      http://epic.cs.colorado.edu/?page_id=11 [colorado.edu]

      Could we design something more reliable from scratch? Probably. But that would cost $cash to design and deploy, and then you'd have to convince people to actually use the damn thing. Twitter has a large active user base right now, so it makes perfect sense to exploit the tweets as much as possible. (Note also that TFS says "Japan considers '911' calls from Twitter" not "Japan considers replacing '911' calls from landlines with Twitter".)

      p.s. Landline 911 works over proprietary lines owned by AT&T et al. ... you might want to rethink your use of the scare term "proprietary".

      • by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @02:59AM (#41175809)

        How is twitter any better than texting in this situation? Texts will go through even if your phone connects for a fraction of a second, twitter will NOT. Texts can be sent from almost any cell phone made in the last 10 years, tweets can not. Texts can be redirected to local receiver stations if the upstream data link dies, Twitter cannot. EVERY cellphone has a texting number, only some have twitter accounts.

        Twitter may be a little cheaper, but if it's not going to cover most users, but texting will. So it sounds like you'll need to implement texting anyways, so why spend extra money and confuse people by having 2 systems?

        • Texts will go through even if your phone connects for a fraction of a second,

          Yes. There are strong arguments for emergency calls via text. They are a more robust form of delivery than voice calls and can work on a very overloaded network or one with reception which is too poor to take voice calls. The only problem is that you can't be sure if the text got through.

          • How is "It might have gone through" better than "it can't even connect"?
            • How is "It might have gone through" better than "it can't even connect"?

              I would assume that "it might have gone through" is better than "can't connect" on the goounds that in the former case you might get help, whereas in the latter case you certainly won't.

          • This. My phone informs me with a series of messages: "Sending SMS", "Message sent" or "Sending Failed". Seems to be a binary condition. Whether or not it went to the right number, however...

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Texts will go through even if your phone connects for a fraction of a second,

            Yes. There are strong arguments for emergency calls via text. They are a more robust form of delivery than voice calls and can work on a very overloaded network or one with reception which is too poor to take voice calls. The only problem is that you can't be sure if the text got through.

            False. Texts are unreliable as all heck. First, it's "best effort" delivery, similar to e-mail. While 99% of all e-mail and texts probably make it

        • by Anonymous Coward

          > Texts can be sent from almost any cell phone made in the last 10 years

          The article refers to Japan. A surprising number of Japanese phones don't support text messages.

          After the 2011 earthquake it wasn't possible to make phone calls, but the internet connection was still rock solid.

          • Yes, text messaging in Japan is fragmented. Its often impossible to text between carriers and my Japanese carrier offered no capability to send or receive texts overseas.

            When the earthquake hit power and phone service became largely unusable pretty quickly (somewhere between Tokyo and the quake). However, I was able to send a facebook post from my Japanese style smartphone that hit a fair number of my friends and family telling them we were OK before everything went down. I rarely used it for day to day stu

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Actually Japanese phones skipped over texts and went directly to email. SMS with Japanese characters cuts the message length in half (each character is two bytes). Some of their networks don't even support 2G any more, so if your phone doesn't have a 3G signal then it has no signal and no messaging or calling capability.

          Twitter is just one of many systems being used in Japan for emergency support. They took the sensible decision not to rely on one system and instead make use of a wide variety of different o

        • You can tweet via SMS. I know this and I hate twitter.
        • You can tweet via text. Every cellphone that can text can therefore tweet, and the tweet will go through if your phone connects for a fraction of a second. Twitter is better than texting in this situation because 1 tweet can alert emergency personnel as well as your family and friends, which means each person doesn't have 50 people trying to call them, and being worried when they don't get an answer, and calling again, overloading the network so no one can call/text anyone back.

          After the earthquake &
    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @02:07AM (#41175673)

      So wait, you mean a company that has it's own internal phone system and exchange can't expect reliable 911 service, and it's disgusting and deplorable to even give such a problem attention?

      Emergency service should be available by whatever means people are going to have to connect to it. It would seem to me that if you can connect to twitter or facebook or the like you have some other connection mechanism, but not every country is the same and technology plods along. If you only have a device with 3g data service and no voice and no texting (who needs texting if you can do it in app) then you should probably have 911 service available through that. If people are going to use twitter to ask for help in an emergency, as stupid as it sounds today, you might want to plan ahead to be able to figure out how to support that.

      When I was a kid we didn't have 911 (or 999) service, and were supposed to keep the number for Police, Ambulance and Fire next to the phone, 911 service existed, just not in my area. So why the push to get 911 everywhere when it seemed really straightforward to just print the fire/police/ambulance numbers on a card that sat under the phone handset? Because in an emergency people don't think straight and programming people to be mindless little zombies that can call 911 from the age of 4 is a much better plan than trying to get them to read off a number. Please don't take this statement as belly aching on my part here, but my grandfather died in a retirement home trying to use the phone back in 2008. To dial 911 he needed to dial an extra 9 (9 for an outside line) - and the emergency number for the nurse on the main floor was printed on his phone. No one knows what number he was trying to call (it could have been his estranged wife and not 911 for example), but I'd like to think if he was trying to dial 911 that 911 should have, in all circumstances worked. No extra '9' for an outside line shit - that is far too confusing for someone in an emergency situation, he had trouble with '9 for an outside line' to call US in no stress situations. Every even microscopic thing costs time, confusion and potentially lives.

      Especially as we look to the future, emergency service operators have to figure out how they're going to cope with communications being potentially handled by a handful of different companies than the phone and cable companies they're used to. Without voice or texting plans (or devices) we may end up in a world were 'texting' is just some app that uses the phone service like an IM program, voice calls might be handled through any number of services rather than through the phone company directly, and you need to build both a legal and technical framework *before* that becomes a problem. 10 years ago people really needed to think about the problem of 911 service on cell phones so that they could build the technology and rules for cell phones of today, back then there were payphones and landlines everywhere, it seemed silly to even try and get accurate location data for cell phones (they only know what tower they're connected to not where they are right? Oh right...). This might be preparing for nothing. It might be something we all have to deal with, and in the case of Japan they are the forefront of disaster planning because pretty much every type of disaster you can think of afflicts them, so they have the ability to try out a hundred different ideas for the rest of us.

      • 911 may be ambiguous for phone systems where you must dial 9 to get to the outside. For instance, at my workplace we had serious trouble with employees dialing 911 by accident. People dialed 9 to get out, then 1 for international, then another 1 either by mistake, or as the first part of an area code. The emergency services were not amused.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          There seems to be a lot of competing theory on this. 999 is good because it's hard to loopback dial during maintenance, whereas 112 is easy to loopback dial but harder to butt dial by just holding a button. Anything that has a leading 9 conflicts with 'dial 9 for an outside like' services and so on. I don't envy the guys who try and sort these things out.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:44AM (#41175383)

    Joe Sixpack Help! My home is burning down and my kids are trapped inside!

    Like Comment Share 8 minutes ago

    3 people like this.

    • by Idbar (1034346) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:22AM (#41175523)
      At least you know help is on the way if you see:

      you, 911 and 3 other people liked this.
    • by dintech (998802) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:44AM (#41175601)

      Idiot! (Score:-1, Flamebait)
      by Jane Sixpack on Thursday August 30, @06:43AM

      I told you not to keep those gas canisters in the kitchen.

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Joe Sixpack Help! My home is burning down and my kids are trapped inside!

      Like Comment Share 8 minutes ago

      3 people like this.

      More like 10,000 new people following this post on Twitter.

    • Given twitter it might be more like:

      Joe Sixpack hlp home brning down kids trapped lol

    • Contrast the above with IRC: [bash.org]
      <tomfoolery> there's a small fire burning in my room
      <beretta> lemme guess im supposed to act suprised that you're telling us and not making any attempt to extinguish it, so i can submit it to bash where it will join the ranks of the other "SOMETHING CATOSTROPHIC HAPPENED SO I CAME TO TELL YOU GUYS ON IRC FIRST INSTEAD OF ATTEMPTING TO DEFUSE THE HOSTILE SITUATION" quotes that are grossly abundant, similar, and overrated. and despite a new one is submitted each we

  • I went to chicago for the weekend #survived..

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I predict a rash of tweeds..

      ;) Well, whaddya know??! Tweed is again in fashion; too pity it causes rashes this time 'round... better wear a cotton shirt underneath ;)

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      what it is Holmes?

      2 days later

      #survived

    • In other words, how do you enforce that people use hashtags only for what they're intended? It's not going to work. Although, they could filter them appropriately. Also, not everyone has or wants a Twitter account.

  • That episode of "The IT Crowd" where there's a fire in the office and Moss sends an email for help to the fire department.

    So FriendFace might be used to send emergency calls in the future, eh?

  • so in otherwords (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:08AM (#41175477)

    your social behavior is monitored for the severely unlikely event your in a emergency situation 24/7 instead of requesting for help

    anyone see an issue with this?

    • Re:so in otherwords (Score:5, Informative)

      by slash.dt (701002) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:55AM (#41175635)

      your social behavior is monitored for the severely unlikely event your in a emergency situation 24/7 instead of requesting for help

      anyone see an issue with this?

      If you read the article, you would note that this is specifically for Natural disasters, ie widespread events like earthquake or tsunami. It is not for your small-scale emergencies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:12AM (#41175491)

    During the earthquake and Tsunami in Tokyo in 2011, the cellular networks were completely jammed, but the internet was coasting along just fine.

    I agree, that we're giving too much power to these social networks which are centralized and not distributed, but using the internet for emergency calls isn't a bad idea in and of themselves.

  • All I can think of is Moss Contacst Fire Department [youtube.com].

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:27AM (#41175545)
    Listen Americans, "911" is the AMERICAN emergency number. The rest of the world doesn't use it. In Japan, its "119", as TFA says. In Australia it's "000". In the UK it's "999". If you really think Americans are too dumb to understand that, just write "emergency number" instead of confusing everyone by trying to "translate" a number.
    • by slash.dt (701002)
      even the ITWorld article put 911 in the title despite correctly noting in the text that it is 119 in Japan.

      The most important part of this is how to treat reports of survivors. After 9/11 many people from my company called in to report that they were ok and that they had seen other survivors. Because of many false reports, we would only record someone as definitely alive if they personally contacted us.

      In theory using twitter would help with this but how do you verify that it is the real person and no

      • by neonmonk (467567)

        I was going to respond with "Who would be such a cucking funt?" - but this is the Internet after all. People have done worse things.

      • NANPA 911

        Europe - 112

        GSM phones - 112

        Japan - 119 or 110 (Police)

        Australia 000
        New Zealand 111

        India 2611

        China 110, 120, 119

        So most of the world's population do not use 911 as an emergency number ....

    • by isorox (205688) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:54AM (#41175631) Homepage Journal

      Listen Americans, "911" is the AMERICAN emergency number. The rest of the world doesn't use it. In Japan, its "119", as TFA says. In Australia it's "000". In the UK it's "999". If you really think Americans are too dumb to understand that, just write "emergency number" instead of confusing everyone by trying to "translate" a number.

      112 is the closest thing to an international standard.

      • Listen Americans, "911" is the AMERICAN emergency number.

        In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue. On another note, hot of the presses, dog bites man.

        Look, I know I must be new here etc, but RTFH (headline). See the little quoty things around the 911?

        instead of confusing everyone by trying to "translate" a number.

        Don't worry, only you were confused. Besides, it's an American website, and among people here, I suspect 911 is pretty well known from the media etc.

        • by 1u3hr (530656)

          Besides, it's an American website,

          Oh, how is it that it carries a story about Japan? How is it that I am reading it in Hong Kong? Is this usw.slashdot.org or www.slashdot.org?

          It's not "911" in Japan; it's "119". It's that simple. You don't "translate" facts. You don't say someone was eating hamburger when they were actually eating rice, just to make Americans feel more comfortable.

          See the little quote things around the 911?

          Yeah. Who are they quoting? No one in the story said that.

          • by artor3 (1344997)

            Oh, how is it that it carries a story about Japan? How is it that I am reading it in Hong Kong? Is this usw.slashdot.org or www.slashdot.org?

            Are you seriously asking why a news website from one country would carry a story from another? Or how a news website from one country is accessible in another? Really?

            Slashdot is an American website. Have you not noticed how much coverage goes to American politics, as compared to, say, German politics? It's globally available, just as the BBC is. When I read the BBC, I accept that they call soccer football, and when you read an American site, you'll need to accept little cultural quirks (like calling f

      • sorry, I replied to the wrong post.

    • Yeah, but it's worth putting up with so we can be entertained by foreign-number-nazis (like, did you even know we had those?).
      • by slash.dt (701002)

        Yeah, but it's worth putting up with so we can be entertained by foreign-number-nazis (like, did you even know we had those?).

        Yeah, if those foreign countries want us Americans to visit, they better support 911 if we need to call for assistance.

        • As someone else mentioned, a lot of them do. And at least one developing country switched to 911 for no other reason than they got some cheap used telephony equipment a few years back.
    • How'd you know 911 is the American emergency number? Apparently you had no problems translating...
      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        A leading question? But the answer is "because we've seen American TV shows and movies". Same way you might know what the UK emergency number is from watching a UK show or movie.

        The point is, it pisses the rest of the world off when Americans always ASSUME everyone else knows (or ~should~ know) about their equivalents to X, while at the same they seemingly haven't a clue about, or aren't expected to know, any other countries' equivalents to X.

        '112' works from anywhere though (from a mobile phone), so that's

        • Maybe stop watching so many American TV shows and movies? Just a thought. A portion of Americans won't shut up about how superior the BBC is and how they can't tune in legally. Why would anyone with access to this treasure of culture possibly tune into anything else? If, indeed, anyone knowing the American emergency number is bad, why did you inform us of the UKian one? Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? Heck, Slashdot is an American site that wears its American-ness on its sleeve, isn't it?
          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            Huh? I'm not from the UK. I watch plenty of content from all kinds of countries. I never said a disproportionate amount of the shows watched are American, I just said that's how someone might be aware of the US emergency number.

            Also I'm not the GP poster ... I didn't mention the UK number. I didn't mention any number (except 112, which is global).

            • OK, well stop being so UK-centric then. It pisses the rest of the world off.

              You see what I did there?

              • by Cimexus (1355033)

                Sigh. I used a random country to use as an example. (Well not entirely random: one that produces enough TV/movies to matter. The example wouldn't have worked well if I picked Lesotho or something!)

        • by jbonomi (1839286)
          I know from watching UK television that the new emergency number there is in fact 0118999881999119725... 3.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      It's 911 in Canada as well. Just so you know, it's not "American" only. You can also use various *numbers in Canada, for instance in Ontario you can use *OPP(Ontario Provincial Police) for emergencies, other provinces use both as well. This is because the country is so freaking large, and resources are so freaking scattered, that sometimes 911 isn't always your best option.

      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        North American then. In many places, 'American' doesn't specifically refer to the US (a topic done to death on Slashdot I know, but there is literally a word like 'United Statesian' in many languages to refer to those from the USA).

        And even in English, 'American' in the context of phone networks is usually understood to mean 'North American' rather than specifically the US. After all, the US and Canada share the same country code (+1), so as far as 'talking about phones' is concerned, they may as well be th

    • by Inda (580031)
      You can use 911 in the UK. We have made allowances for the three Americans who travel here each year.

      We also have 101 as our non-emergency emergency number, but no one uses it, as it only redirects you to the nearest police station and time is better spent pissing in the wind.
    • by clive_p (547409)
      Absolutely right. But you didn't bother to post the only international number, which is 112. This works throughout the EU and in quite a number of other countries besides from land-lines, and on all mobile phones using the GSM system (which is most of them, maybe nearly all). This is the number to teach children, and to use in articles about emergency calls.
  • Not so strange (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Around 9 or 10 years ago, a guy I knew used ICQ (yes, really) to message a friend of his one night, when he looked in the mirror and saw his whole neck was swollen (his throat was 'a bit sore' but he didn't think it was that bad until he went into the bathroom and saw himself in the mirror). His phone had been disconnected that week (his roommates were cheapskates -- well they were all university students...) and he got picked up and they went to the hospital. Turned out he had acute tonsillitus and if he h

    • So...no money for phone but money for internet? Priorities, I suppose. Darwin curses..."missed!"
      • by Xiaran (836924)
        My TV/Internet package comes with a phone. I can;t get rid of it. I use it for maybe ordering pizza once and a while.... but now I do that online. I don;t use it at all now but can;t get rid of it.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Keep in mind that disconnected phone lines usually still work with 911. That is assuming that you still have a phone on the line, and it is actually wired to the phone company.

      For this reason it is often a good idea to plug a phone into a landline even if you don't pay for service.

      The same applies to cell phones - usually phones without service can still dial 911, so feel free to give an old phone to your aunt who is afraid of breaking down but doesn't own one.

  • As opposed to, you know, just tweeting that you survived because your friends already know your Twitter handle? Hell, if you're in a position to use Twitter, you could just drop them an email. The real challenge is to reconnect family with those survivors who haven't wound up somewhere with online access, or who don't use social networks in the first place.

    • Although not appointed as moderator, I came here for this post and was not disappointed.
    • so use said socnets/email access to inform those who need to know names of survivors so they can reconnect said survivors to families :) Probably something better left to those rescue teams on the ground who aren't pulling stray limbs out of rubble than @random_survivor tho...

  • It might just work in Japan. They have very high levels of social cohesion, and creating false IDs and false calls would literally be unthinkable to most Japanese. If you tried the same thing in Europe or the USA however they would be overwhelmed by fake calls.
  • "Dear Sir / Madam, I am writing to inform you of a fire which has broken out at the premises of..."

    No, that's too formal.

    "Dear Sir / Madam. Fire! Fire! Help me! 123 Carrendon Road. Looking forward to hearing from you. All the best, Maurice Moss."

  • Ok, let's assume for a second that a natural disaster happens and you survive. Furthermore, let's assume that you decide to spread word of this via a generic tweet instead of calling friends and family. The advice was to "add #survived to your tweets. This will help when family and friends that are worried about you search on your welfare." Wouldn't friends and family be following your Twitter feed? Wouldn't they see that you tweeted "I'm all right" by going to your Twitter page? Why would they search

  • Not sure if referring to terrorist attack or emergency call.

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