Students heard a fascinating description of how social media is changing emergency response from Penn State University researcher Andrea Tapia, Ph.D., on November 8, 2021. Tapia is an Associate Dean for Research at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. She is also a Fulbright scholar, has worked with the United Nations and NASA, and is the sister of Dominican College Psychology Professor Blair Hoplight, Ph.D.
Tapia described how as a scholar of crisis informatics she and her team are working to build a system to help emergency responders gather information from social media. “We are not trying to get rid of the 9-1-1 operators,” she explained. “We are trying to make sure that they have the best information possible at any moment.”
Using a number of real-life examples, Tapia illustrated how bystanders to an emergency sometimes post videos or photos to social media instead of calling 9-1-1. The system she is working on will gather that information for emergency responders. Two hurdles she must overcome – identifying which social media posts come from bystanders and determining which ones are trustworthy. Her advice to those who want to help in an emergency is to call 9-1-1 first and then turn on your geo-locator and use hashtags so your social media posts about the emergency can more easily be tracked.
Tapia’s presentation in the Fury Lecture Hall was part of the Sr. Michelle Nugent Lecture Series and was presented by the Dominican College Division of Social Sciences.