Friday, April 3, 2015

More Than A Class Subject: It Can Really Touch Our Lives

A severe earthquake occurred on 17 August 1999 at 3:01 a.m. local time in northwestern Turkey in very close location to Istanbul where almost 15 million people live. The shock had a moment magnitude of 7.6 and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of IX (Violent). The event lasted for 37 seconds, killing around 17,000 people (but many sources suggest the actual figure may have been closer to 45,000 dead) and left approximately half a million people homeless. The nearby city of Izmit was also very badly damaged. The earthquake sparked a disastrous fire at nearby refinerıes. The earthquake caused a tsunami in the Sea of Marmara that was about 2.5 meters high. The estimated amount of damage is equivalent to 23 billion dollars. At the time I was living in Istanbul and in one of the most damaged part of it called Avcilar. I still remember that night as if it happened last night. I remember how all my family members’ was screaming and trying to go outside and that strong and horrible sound coming from ground. It was shaking so strong that everything in the house was falling over and it was very hard to walk. When we managed to go out of the building and got over the first shock, I saw the buildings next to ours and others around us collapsed. I cannot explain how terrible that feeling.
This earthquake showed us our vulnerability. But it also showed us that how our government were ineffective and unprepared such events. They were so helpless that they even couldn’t reach most of the affected areas on the third day. No one knew what to do, where the rescue teams should deploy, where emergency supplies could be found, where were field hospitals etc. Local offıcials lost communıcatıon between themselves. There were only rumors about what was happening. It was a total chaos and panic. “Nerede bu devlet” became a popular phrase which means “Where is our government”. Those were all I remembered immediately when we talked about social media role in emergency management at the class and Commonwealth Edison case. I couldn’t help thinking about what if we have well designed emergency management and we could have used social media tools in those days. Of course earthquake was an inevitable natural event but we could have minimize negative aftermath effects. We could have coordinated official, volunteers, understand dimension of disaster in a very short time and so on.

 So many deaths caused by lack of coordination, lack of information could have been averted. This helped me realize that social media tools are not just some fancy things to enjoy. They can really touch our lives in very unexpected ways. A new agency “The Prime Ministry Disaster & Emergency Management Authority” was founded to coordinate efforts. But unfortunately they still don’t have a social media element in their plans. I reached a friend of mine working there and talked about what I’ve learned here. He promised me to share them with his superiors. I hope this class will change something in a place where the need is obvious.

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