ISABELLA, MN (KQDS/CNN) – Firefighters are using Twitter to get the word out about wildfires spreading through their area in hopes of saving more lives.
"I think communications is the most critical part of any response that's put together," said radio operator Doug Nelson.
Nelson is staged at the Isabella Community Center in Isabella, MN, organizing more than a half-dozen amateur radio ops to assist county authorities with the latest information on wildfires in the area.
"There's a lot of areas that public service radio does not cover into for whatever reason, and we've got the ability to set up our network or use our network to help fill in communications when needed," Nelson said.
While gaps are filled for coordinating this, a next generational gap is being filled for the first time ever by the crew at the Superior National Forest.
"If we are going to communicate with a lot of people in a short period of time, the best way to do it is by using one of the social media sources," said Information Officer Jen Bergerson.
They have set up a Twitter account that's sending out updates. They also have RSS feeds that can be accessed instantly on a smartphone.
"It's a good way to get them wherever they are at that precise moment, and that's the real advantage," Bergerson said.
Bergerson says social media can be a great tool to keep people safe and informed, but says it can also be difficult to keep messages clear.
"It isn't always factual, and it's a lot harder to do rumor control that way," Bergerson said.
Overall, she says it's a challenge worth fighting on the social, as well as the fire front.
"It gives you pieces of the story that you can then use as a basis to check and find out and make sure they are factual," Bergerson said.
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