The Hill 60 Bump team is pleased to introduce our Caribbean Emergency & Disaster Alerts system: CaribWatch. It is a FREE smartphone application for Android and iPhone which is supported by a website and the use of the hashtag #CaribWatch across social media. It has been developed in collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and will be implemented in partnership with agencies such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross in the Caribbean to support relief efforts after events.
The Problem: Why the Caribbean?
The Caribbean, while famous for its tropical paradises, is also statistically among the most vulnerable regions in the world to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. For regions like the Caribbean that are disaster prone, there isn’t the question of ‘if’ a disaster strikes, but ‘when?’. The region has seen a number of catastrophic events from major hurricanes to the volcanic eruption in Montserrat and the devastating earthquake in Haiti. There have also been social emergencies which required management. As the region consists of a variety of territories, it is important to establish a central hub for the sourcing and sharing of crisis alerts.
Use of Social Media in Disasters
Traditionally, people turned to radio and television media for emergency information. During a crisis, however, major infrastructure is often damaged or overwhelmed. It is clear that more people are turning to the internet and specifically social media, for news and information: A USF study found that social media has replaced emergency numbers as the go-to for updates and assistance – some examples:
- January 12-14, 2010: 2.3 Million Tweets containing the words ‘Haiti’ and ‘Red Cross’ after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.
- March 11, 2011: 4.5 million Facebook status updates about the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
- October 2012: At peak, Instagram users uploaded Hurricane Sandy related images at a rate of 10 per second
- July 2013: A Hill 60 Bump Facebook post about Tropical Storm Chantal reached almost 100,000 viewers in just one day.
Caribbean Mobile Market Trends
Research by BuddComm and MediaBadger have shown that the availability and usage of mobile handsets and high-speed data are a growing, providing increased opportunity for delivering feature rich content in the region.
- Caribbean mobile phone penetration rates well exceed 80% compared to a global average of about 60%.
- Smartphone penetration has shown steady annual growth in excess of 200% over the period 2010 to 2012.
CaribWatch is a system for sharing emergency and disaster alerts in the Caribbean via a free smartphone application and the supporting use of social media. It is a customized and user interactive system which focuses on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Created to disseminate official advisories, support the activities of first responders and simplify the finding and sharing of critical information, CaribWatch provides an aid in the event of natural disasters ranging from Storms, Hurricanes and Tsunamis to Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Man-made emergencies like Civil Unrest. Its purpose is to enable people throughout the Caribbean and its Diaspora to help each other in times of crisis, by providing a hub for information and a focal point for relief efforts.
How it Works
The CaribWatch app sends push alerts to handsets, which users can then opt to share as updates with their own social networks or the public. People react better during emergencies if they know what to do and being prepared can reduce panic, and as such, the application also stores key data including emergency contacts, disaster preparation checklists, guidelines, tips and definitions of terms for users to familiarize themselves with to reduce anxiety, fear and panic.
The social media component is focused on the use of the hashtag #CaribWatch across platforms for the easy sharing and crowd-sourcing of news. Information of the best quality is sent at the quickest possible time to users, while also allowing them to share updates with their social networks or the general public. The application also has a supporting Facebook app page, website, blog, and Twitter feed which posts alerts in real-time. The website www.caribwatch.com provides the same data as the app as well as a curated social media feed and download links.
CaribWatch collaborates with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) as well as the major disaster relief agencies such as the Salvation Army Caribbean to assist with the mobilization of post event relief through volunteer action as well as direct donations.
Join in the launch of CaribWatch: