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Twitter As A Lifesaver?

Lots of people know about Twitter and what its many functions are. But Twitter as a lifesaver 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 her other 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 (the interview with Dr. Jonathan is about 30 minutes into it), you can download the podcast through iTunes at DoctorAnonymous.Org.

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

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