Japan considers using social networks in disaster situations

Emergency services are embracing technology as new ways to investigate, send alerts and receivereports of crises. And now, the Japanese are looking at social networks to support communication in disaster scenarios, especially when traditional services fail. The local Fire and Disaster Management Agency put together a panel discussion on just that topic, with representatives attending from the likes of Twitter, Yahoo, Mixi and NHN Japan, as well as various government and emergency bodies. The talk was motivated, in part, by the March tsunami, when the internet was the sole means of information for some, and with initiatives like Google's Person Finder playing a role in the aftermath. Any formal implementation of the ideas discussed is probably a long way off, and this is the first of three planned meets to hash it out. In the meantime, however, Twitter's Japanese blog posted some suggestions on how their network could be used in emergencies -- we just hope they won't be needed anytime soon.