Monday, August 02, 2010

Dr. A Show 175: Twitter Saves Life

Lots of people know about twitter and what its many functions are. But, twitter as a life saver is probably something that you don't hear about a lot. Leigh Fazzina was in a triathalon race last week in Connecticut when her bike crashed. Her cell phone could not make any voice calls. However, she did figure out that she could send out text.
3 Twitter accounts, SMS and MMS messages, BlackBerry Instant Message (BBM) and voice. I knew Twitter would get me an immediate response as my messages would be sent to the 1,000 or so people in my network. I also knew that my Twitter network being comprised of mostly healthcare communications/public relations colleagues would take me seriously.... Remember, it was getting dark and I needed help immediately....
One of her many followers was @DrJonathan on twitter and he describes in the video interview above from Doctor Anonymous Show 175, what he and a lot of other of her followers did - they called the local authorities to let them know their friend was hurt and could not make a voice call. According to this article from NBC news, here is what happened next.
Within seconds, Fazzina’s Twitter friends and colleagues from all over heard her and reached out to authorities. The Farmington Police Department received a call from a woman in California, who led rescuers to Winding Trails. She tweeted directions and landmarks and stayed in tough with friends.At 7:27 p.m. [she tweeted] : "Thx! I hear sirens now. Hope they can find me. RT @DrJonathan: @LeighFazzina ok found the local police number.. calling- sit tight!"
Now this story is not without its detractors. In the comment section of the NBC story, there were more than a few comments who questioned the validity of this story. Still others, like the one below, who state that the facility where this took place is well run and an incident like this could have never happened.
Winding Trails triathalons are extremely well-run. They have a full staff on call for any emergencies equipped with radios and gas powered Gator carts to navigate the trails with. Each triathelte is accounted for and if they do not cross the finish line they begin an extensive search for them. As they were dispatched into the woods to try to locate the woman another triathlete approached the staff to inform them that the woman had fallen off of her bicycle.

She was not alone, people did hear her, and the staff (consisting of lifeguards and EMTs), the fire department, and UConn paramedics responded in a more than timely manner to come to her aid. If the trails were dangerous and the facility unsafe or not well-covered they would not be allowed to host these events that consist of hundreds of athletes every week (that successfully complete the races as well). There has never once been a complaint of loss of cell phone service on their trails...
For me, I tend to believe this story and thank those people who were on twitter that night who not only heard the call for help, but also took action to contact the local authorities to let them know about the situation. This really does speak to the power of twitter and social media. To check out the entire audio podcast, you can listen to the player below (the interview with Dr. Jonathan is about 30 minutes into the podcast). You can also download the podcast through the show's iTunes page at DoctorAnonymous.Org


Leigh Fazzina said...

Dr A. Thx for covering this. Yeah you are right, several detractors calling my accident a “hoax” which is a shame. It’s appearing that those who don’t understand the power of SM just don’t understand. People need to read my blog post and see I was lost. And if they understood that sometimes cell phones drop calls and can’t put calls through with a dim connection but that internet connections work via cell phone – maybe they would understand better.

Here is more info that may help people:

I never rode Winding Trails before. I’m from Philly. There was no staff on the bike ride with us. Yes, on the swim staff were canoeing and paddling along side of us swimmers - but they were not on the Mt biking trail. Or at least there was no one that I saw on the trails.

Arriving on the scene of accident were medics, an ATV, and I am uncertain of what/who else. Lots of people came. Some of this is a bit foggy for me as I was in some shock (clinical shock). Many people were huddled around me talking to me and touching my neck and back and trying to stabilize me and doing tests on me. At first, Jeff the medic said he thought I may have broken my pelvis and shoulder... So I was put on a stretcher and my neck was stabilized... Then I was put in the ATV and carted out of the woods to be taken to an ambulance. I couldn't see anything when they put me on the stretcher as it wasn't possible. I was laying down with my neck strapped in and body strapped and I could barely move. The only thing I had on me was my phone in my hand and I refused to let it go. It was my comfort piece if you will and I felt the need to keep tweeting letting all the people who reached out know I was okay. The Fire Police would know best what happened here.

Medics explained that when you are in an accident you are in shock and "think" your fine, but many times one is not.
When the medics came to scene, they gave me oxygen first, then strapped me to the stretch board, secured my head and neck. I was having anxiety really bad and getting upset and screaming as I wanted to get out of the neck brace. I am claustrophobic and I was really upset being strapped in. They then put an IV in me and gave me an anxiety medicine to calm me down. This all happened in the woods before I was even on the ATV being taken to the ambulance. Within a minute or a few, I started to feel immediate relief from anti-anxiety meds and I calmed down. And then I got my whits to myself and chuckled a little because I couldn’t believe all that was happening.

As far as the clinical shock – I’d love to know what really happens during this from a physician. Maybe you can comment on this and explain .

(Continued in next post from me as well...)

Leigh Fazzina said...

As for the technology issue: someone wrote this on one of the TV website comments section:

“Well I can see how this a valid story. Twitter text transmission requires very little signal and bandwidth. Packets are small enough you can still send out with intermittent connections. Audio data packets, however require stable connection (hence dropped calls). From what I heard, she did try calling out but after a few rings, call was dropped. C'mon people, imagine if you were in the same situation, you tried calling and your call gets would not resort to texting if there is a possibility for helped to arrive? Same question different scenario.....locked inside a trunk of a car? Yep, I thought so.”

Everyone keeps asking me "How did you get an internet connection but a phone call would not go through?"

Anyone in the IT or telecommunications industry can verify how digitally and technically this can happen. But here is what happened to me:

My very first outreach for the first 10 minutes was to scream in the woods. I did just that for a while. Then I finally grabbed my blackberry and figured it was time for me to make a call. I first called my cousin Maria Pinto of Middletown, CT, with whom I was staying with. She knew I was on the race and knew where I was. (I could not call my cousin John Pilla as he was on the race). I dialed. Her phone rang once, and then it stopped ringing. I looked down at the blackberry and the phone said "calling.... connecting…" But I no longer heard a ring. I waited a bit, then I hung up and dialed her a second a time. I didn't get a ring on the second time. This often happens with mobile phones when there is a very low connection… This is why I didn’t call 911. I would have otherwise. I then went to Twitter because I knew thousands of people would hear me in seconds and it was getting dark, I was scared, I was cramping up and I wanted help! I thought to get help from the masses. Sure, I could have sent text messages one on one to people, but that would have taken forever. And I knew going on Twitter would get me immediate help! Given the work I do in the digital communications world, I knew the internet connection would work. So this is the route I took. And I really felt that it was a smart one. It got me what I needed in matter of minutes. And that is what I was looking for.

As you and millions of others who use social media know – social media is about “engagement” and “conversation.” Since I used a microblogging platform to reach out for help, I had to let people know how I was. I could not ask for help and then never get back to all the people who were concerned. That would have been awful. I recorded pieces and took some pics that I could share to tell my story with my Twitter friends and network. At the time I had no idea the news media would pick up my story.

NBC in Hartford learned about my story via Twitter. When I logged into Twitter last Thursday, I saw one of their reporters following me and I agreed to do an interview. That’s how this all took off.

It’s ridiculous that laypeople are calling this hoax. Does it need all the media attention its getting? I do know this has never happened before, so maybe to some media outlets think its newsworthy and it shows how Twitter can be used in emergency situations.

I’m just thankful that I am okay and all these people helped me, from the medics to the fire police to my twitter friend etc. I am truly lucky! And now I am still healing from the internal bruising and soreness.

My original blog post on this where I update my Twitter network _>

Thx for sharing it, Dr. A.

Leigh Fazzina said...

One last thing... The police and Fire Police along with medics have explained that they received many calls from Twitter users from all over the country. And it was this that led to the rescue. Between the time I did the Twitter outreach and the the medics were sent for me, a few others on Winding Trails did become aware of the accident. But it was the Twitter outreach that got me the help. And that is well documented.

Regardless, I am so thankful for anyone and everyone helped along the way!

carmen2u said...

This is yet another example of how powerful Twitter is. We saw Twitter give voice to earthquake victims in Chile and to locals in Mumbai who witnessed the hotel bombing. Twitter allows people to instantly connect in ways we never imagined. That goodness Leigh had her Blackberry and had an active Twitter account! Twitter rocks!

Lymie said...

I don't think it is a hoax, but I think you hit the panic button and got a lot of resources thrown at you that you don't appreciate. You were in a triathlon in the Connecticut woods, for goodness sake. They would have come and found you very quickly. You need to work on your sense of perspective. geez. "Screaming" and "panicking", really? No way you were in clinical shock, either.

Lymie said...

And the title "Twitter saves a life". Really? nonsense.