10 August 2017

Ethiopia: Time to Pick Up Phones, Update Online Sites

At the heart of emergency time dialing numbers is the America's 911. This emergency telephone number has already become popular number not just in the country of the service provider but also in other parts of the globe with some countries adapting it including Canada. Now people outside of the US where the toll-free telephone number is reserved for emergency situations requiring the assistance of Police, Fire or Ambulance are familiar to it, thanks to their film industry, Hollywood.

Surprisingly enough, some of us may not know the dial number for Ethiopian police and other emergency service providers at a time of accident or emergency. The question is also how known, accessible and functional are our emergency telephone numbers among us. The answer is they are not.

Of course installing the required infrastructure is a must. There must be adequate network and internet services that fit to the contemporary situation. These phone numbers could not in fact be functional when the network is weak the whole week. But even for one to figure out whether they are working or not he or she must know the dial numbers. I just doubt if we are able to know them more than we do the 911. In such business, time is the most valuable.

Moreover, most of the information desks' telephone numbers of government agencies including emergency service providers are not reachable. I sometimes wonder if this is becoming a national norm. This time to get to the institution is much better than accessing their address via phone.

Besides installing efficient hotlines and helplines for institutions , member of fire brigade departments has their own Twitter and Facebook accounts solely dedicated to make themselves available for people looking help. But our organizations seem to forget that other sites can be powerful communication channels for sharing important information with the local community.

Countries have come to understand over the period of time that better connectivity produces quickest responses in emergency services. In emergencies, the responding agencies use social networks to share important updates, provide information and respond to questions from affected communities. Our organizations should similarly look to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to inform and get informed about incidents. However, this has not been the case in our context. Organization be it governmental or non governmental have outdated Websites, Facebook pages. Even if they are active, they are of only displays of the organizations' missions and visions.

Our emergency responding institutions should be available to all in every possible means. They need to know that social media has already become an integral part of disaster response, filling the gaps in areas where cell phone service are lost and that millions of people look for alternative ways of communication including Twitter and Facebook to keep informed.

It is important to understand that getting access to Hotline and Helpline is noting less than a matter of death and life. A delay in seconds may kill and save lives,with all emergency incidents, the faster you act, the better the response and resolution would be. Even countries are encouraging their citizens to use SMS texts in situations where a voice call could endanger the caller, or when a person with disabilities cannot make a call. This shows how much attention is given to emergency services.

On the other hand, the emergence of social media together with fast changing technological advancements has changed the emergency responses and rescue activities and the way business takes place. More and more people are coming online and utilizing Facebook and Twitter to put across their thoughts and information. While institutions are doing the same to fit to the contemporary world.

These days, one should not distribute leaflets and pamphlets to announce its services and new products. Many local and international service providers are already using social media Twitter and Facebook in particular in some rather creative ways. As million of people remain connected to the internet, businesses and services providers start to spend their ample time on developing accessible and modern web, Facebook and twitter pages. Organizations inform their customers and clients as quickly as possible about their services and activities through updating their various pages. Gone are the days of one-way communication where only official sources provide bulletins on disaster news.

Turkey's failed coup d'etat attempt is enough to see how strong using social media is. It is the combination of Twitter and Facebook that President Erdogan used that brought the coup to an end. He tweeted to his 8.6 m followers, posted on his Facebook page, and while aides turned to WhatsApp to control the situation.

Another instance how powerful using social media might be President Trump. Some even attributed his effective use of Twitter as the major weapon what peopled him to the White House. Emergency services could become far more efficient if they incorporated themselves with social media.

At this particularity time where information is power, updating your websites, Twitter and Facebook pages should be your routine task. But in our cases, except for some organizations, both governmental and non governmental have expired websites Facebook pages, even if it is active, it remains mostly not updated. In fact institution are by far better than those having none. Having the missions and visions and logo of the organization displayed is not enough.

As part of being transparent and responsible to inform their clients, the institution should timely and efficiently abreast clients with their current activities and status. Doing this cannot be considered as luxury. It is sometimes embarrassing to a public institution not to do this when lay men are able to do all these stuff for their own sake and interests.

It is time to look at new ways for people to report emergencies quickly and efficiently. In emergencies it is also imperative to update web, Facebook and other pages to share important updates, provide information and respond to questions from the communities.

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