Sounds like a headline from the Weird Weekly News but it’s actually quite true. Scientists in Australia have attached transmitters to 320 sharks so they can monitor their movements. When a shark swims within a kilometre (that’s 0.621371 miles to you and me) of a beach, the transmitter sends a message to a computer which then generates a warning Tweet.
Fisheries advise: tagged Bronze whaler shark detected at Garden Island (north end) receiver at 06:07:00 AM on 27-Dec-2013
— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) December 26, 2013
The messages show up on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia’s (SLSWA) Twitter feed.
Though everyone in the media is having a lot of fun with the story, the truth is it can be a real lifesaver. Since they’ve been keeping records there have been a total of 510 shark attacks in Australia which resulted in the deaths of 144 people in Australia. The US has seen more than 1022 attacks but only 36 deaths.
Traditionally, we learn there are sharks in the area the hard way. Then the news is broadcast on TV later that day. Twitter allows the agencies to send out instant warnings in real time and they don’t have to wait until someone gets hurt to know that danger lurks in nearby waters.
Twitter has always been good about developing new features based on trends. For years, people have been turning to Twitter to communicate and find real-time news during a natural disaster. Long before the news crews can arrive on scene, locals share photos and updates some of which have helped rescuers locate people in need.
This past September, Twitter created the the Twitter Alert system as a formalized way of connecting agencies and the public during a time of crisis. Once you activate the service, you’ll automatically receive an SMS message or a push notification from FEMA when there is a problem in your area. If you live in hurricane or tornado territory, turn this feature on today.
A few weeks ago, Twitter updated the system to include additional countries so alerts are now available in U.S., Japan, Korea, UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil.
We all joke a lot about the crazy things that people post to social media. And then there are the stories of famous people and brands who are taken down by a social misstep. But the Twitter community has always been there to help when the world goes off the rails.
Here’s hoping we get through 2014 without a single Twitter Alert from FEMA.