This paper is a case study of FirstToSee, the social media situational awareness project organized by agencies in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest.
The purpose of FirstToSee is to capture, analyze and map social media using open source tools. The desired result is improved situation awareness through a clearer operational picture which in turn assists in providing a more targeted response.
The Puget Sound is an actively seismic region and is prone to massive earthquakes, such as the 1700 magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake. The next such earthquake in the region will cause widespread casualties and damage.
Inevitably, when the Big One hits the public will turn to social media to report what is happening in their area. The collective information has the capacity to assist in assessment of problems and direct resources where needed most.
The project stack includes SwiftRiver, PHP, D3JS, GeoJSON, OpenLayers and GeoServer as well as complementary iOS and Android mobile applications that allow trusted sources to report additional critical information during an incident.
The open nature of social media provided numerous opportunities to test the platform. Since deploying in May of 2013 we tracked Twitter activity at major Puget Sound festivals and gatherings and real-world incidents around the globe.
The first regional disaster since launching came in late March of 2014 during the Washington State Oso landslide. The paper continues with analysis of the keywords searched, content gathered and methods for geolocating, aggregating and disseminating the information to emergency responders at the scene.