Whilst 14 lives were tragically lost during the Gatlinburg wildfire, this number may have been higher without many residents posting photos and videos of the blaze online.
In the past, this sea of information in and around a disaster zone did not exist. But in today's world it brings with it an opportunity to save lives through insight not previously available.
Here are six easy ways emergency responders could have used this information in order to increase safety in the community during and after the wildfire.
1. Monitor for instances of online vitriol and hate speech (especially as there was possibly a suspect behind the incident):
2. Monitor ‘vigilante justice’ and ensure any manhunt-style posts are kept both accurate and under control:
3. Corroborate online updates that include photos and footage of the incident, to increase situational awareness – all of which could help fire investigators after the fact.
As arson was suspected, these posts could also be used to help find witnesses:
4. Monitor posts informing when the town would be reopening
It is important to keep an eye on these to ensure they are accurate and to pinpoint any misinformation before it spreads.