New Tech Tool Uses Social Media to Improve Emergency Response at Events

Researchers at Purdue University have created a new real-time social analytics tool that police departments and other first responders can use to track potential emergencies at large events.

Just in time for college football season, as fans gather by the thousands every weekend at stadiums nationwide, a new tool being rolled out by Purdue University could prove a huge help in responding to emergency situations at large-scale events.

The new technology, developed on the Purdue campus, will allow police departments, fire departments, EMTs, and others to use social media posts to track those who need assistance in an emergency. The technology will be deployed for the campus’ own football games, but was designed for possible use during major events such as speeches or during natural disasters. It could even be used for tracking traffic patterns.

David Ebert, the director of Purdue’s Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments (VACCINE), said the technology mixes social media analytics, particularly keyword tracking, with broader emergency planning—pinpointing narrow needs within a much broader scope.

“Police departments and first responders can use the social media posts to reach people in need of assistance, including medical emergencies, disaster emergencies, or criminal activity,” Ebert said in a news release. “During the start of football season, it can be used to find fans having heat-related medical issues.”

The school’s police department is using the tool to build word clouds based on the type of event it’s covering, including when dignitaries visit campus. (Vice President Mike Pence, for example, visited the Anderson, Indiana, campus last year. His son is a recent Purdue grad.)

Ebert added that the tool, which the university has patented, will be particularly effective thanks to the large number of people who post on social media during events.

“Practically everyone is on social media these days, so there is a rich amount of data available,” he said.

(YouTube screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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