How your social network could save you from a natural disaster

phys.org | 7/16/2018 | Staff
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In early November 2017, Brooks Fisher's neighbor in Sonoma, California, pounded on his door at 2 a.m., rang the doorbell and shouted, "There's a fire coming and you need to get out now! I can hear trees exploding!"

The sky was orange and the smell of smoke was strong. Fisher and his wife jumped in their car and drove out as flames engulfed houses on both sides of the road. Brooks called 911: The dispatcher told him she already had reports of fires on Rollo Road, but he and his wife saw no official responders. The only people trying to help evacuate the area were their neighbors, going door to door.

Brooks - Wife - Home - Ashes

When Brooks and his wife finally returned to their home, all they found were ashes. But they were safe.

Brooks and his family survived thanks to intervention by a concerned neighbor. Many deaths that occur during events such as flooding, fires, hurricanes and mudslides could be prevented by leaving vulnerable areas. But people don't always move, even after receiving evacuation orders or warnings of imminent risk.

Facebook - Evacuation - Patterns - Information - People

To understand why, we worked with Facebook to understand evacuation patterns based on information that people shared publicly on social media before, during and after hurricanes. We found that social networks, especially connections to those beyond immediate family, influence decisions to leave or stay in place before disasters.

Many communities that are vulnerable to natural disasters put a lot of resources into providing residents with early warnings. For example, in Montecito, California, during the January 2018 mudslides, local authorities and disaster managers tried to warn residents through channels that included emails, social media alerts, press releases and deputies going door to door. Despite these efforts, not all residents evacuated and nearly two dozen lost their lives.

Emphasis - Role - Infrastructure - Preparedness

Traditionally, much emphasis has been placed on the role of physical infrastructure preparedness...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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