With fires still blazing in Melbourne I have to comment that it's obvious that Web 2.0 social networks can save lives in Australia's bush fires and other disasters by enhancing the delivery of timely information to residence through multiple channels including the Web (PC and mobile) and SMS. I was driving home today and heard an "urgent alert" message, "The fire in the Mount Riddell sector east of Healesville has spotted over containment lines and is actively burning south of Narbethong in the Dom Dom area. The communities of the Narbethong area may be directly impacted upon by this fire." The message went on to tell people to enact their fire plans now. But what happens if you're not listening to the radio at that moment, or you're not on your PC checking the CFA website, or close enough to the fire brigade to hear a siren then how does one know that there is imminent danger? Timely information is critical. The vast majority of Australians have mobile phones and 3G devices like the iPhone and carry them around all the time. A simple SMS notification can alert us to act right now. The ability to message back, is the key difference with social networking. The typical pattern is that I can reply or comment back to a message and just as importantly my comment back can be seen by others that want to see it. This allows everyone to be involved and provide vital information when the information flow is absolutely critical.
So while it's nice to know what someone is doing right now on Facebook or Twitter a better use of the technology would be to inform residence of impending danger and allow people to message back about their status and situation.
This is more than just a thought; it can and should be the reality.