You know that social networks have become a dominant part of our society when requests for emergency help are being sent through Facebook and Twitter. In one case, two Australian girls aged 10 and 12 was trapped in a storm drain. They had a mobile phone where updated their Facebook status of their situation. Fortunately one of their “Facebook friend” was online at the time and called for help. If they had a mobile phone why didn’t they called for help themselves?
In another case a man use Twitter to report “Need a paramedic on corner of John Wesley Dobbs and Jackson st. Woman on the ground unconscious. Pls ReTweet.” [see reference] Some of his twitter followers saw his tweet and called emergency help. Why hadn’t he used his phone and make the call instead of tweeting? The man’s reasoning was that his cell phone’s battery was running low and he didn’t want the call dropped while on hold.
Although both cases turned out well, it is not standard nor recommended practice to use social media to request emergency help. As stated by the firefighter in the first story, “It seems absolutely crazy that they updated their status rather than call us directly. We could have come to their rescue much faster than relying on someone else being online, then replying to them, then calling us.” [see reference to news article]
It is unclear as to how dangerous the girl situation was. Perhaps they were not in eminent danger. And it is also unclear whether the girls knew the telephone number for emergency services. That would have been a phone call to 000 in Australia — the equivalent of 911 emergency call in the United States. If the girls had a netbook instead of a mobile phone, then perhaps they would not have been able to make the call. However it does appears that they did have a mobile phone.
Both incidents occurred in 2009 and at the present time of this writing, using social network to request help is not what most people would typically do — at least not yet. That is why the two stories are still considered newsworthy.
On a lighter note…
In another incident, a person found himself in a public restroom stall without toilet paper. He tweeted his predicament and got toilet paper in 20 minutes from a twitter user.[ref]