Importance: Utilizing social media in an emergency can enhance abilities to locate and evacuate casualties more rapidly and effectively, and can contribute towards saving lives following a disaster, through better coordination and collaboration between search and rescue teams.
Objective: An exercise was conducted in order to test a standard operating procedure (SOP) designed to leverage social media use in response to an earthquake, and study whether social media can improve joint Israeli-Jordanian search and rescue operations following a regional earthquake.
Design: First responders from both Jordan and Israel were divided into two mixed groups of eight people each, representing joint (Israeli-Jordanian) EMS teams. Simulated patients were dispersed throughout the Ben-Gurion University Campus. The first search and rescue team used conventional methods, while the second team also used social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) to leverage search and rescue operations.
Participants: Eighteen EMS and medical professionals from Israel and Jordan, which are members of the Emergency Response Development and Strategy Forum working group, participated in the exercise.
Results: The social media team found significantly more mock casualties, 21 out of 22 (95.45%) while the no-media team found only 19 out of 22 (86.36%). Fourteen patients (63.63%) were found by the social media team earlier than the no-media team. The differences between the two groups were analyzed using the Mann-Whitney U-test, and evacuation proved to be significantly quicker in the group that had access to social media. The differences between the three injury severities groups’ extraction times in each group were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test for variance. Injury severity influenced the evacuation times in the social media team but no such difference was noted in the no-media team.
Conclusions: Utilizing social media in an emergency situation enables to locate and evacuate casualties more rapidly and effectively. Social media can contribute towards saving lives during a disaster, in national and bi-national circumstances. Due to the small numbers in the groups, this finding requires further verification on a larger study cohort.