Yesterday afternoon, incredible events unfolded in my city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. A man went on an unprecedented murderous rampage, shooting and killing 7 people. After murdering these 7 individuals, he fled by car and at one point, had over 20 police cars and a helicopter pursuing him on the major highways. After his car was no longer drivable, (after his tires were blown and crashing into several police cars), the gunman ended up fleeing on foot and broke into a home. He subsequently took 3 individuals inside, hostage. One hostage was freed during negotiations. The standoff ended several hours later, near midnight, where he committed suicide. All of the remaining hostages were able to safely evacuate afterwards.
I was first alerted by this when I was emailed by the local television station with the headline, “Breaking News!” … I turned on the television to watch this situation, but captions were spotty in the beginning, and the media was being kept at a distance throughout the crisis. So there wasn’t very much information being shared, and this was all happening just over a couple of miles away from me.
Hoping to get more information on this unfolding situation, I hopped on Twitter and Facebook. One friend on Facebook both had a police scanner and lived a couple of houses over from where the gunman was holding the 3 hostages. Another friend on Twitter was retweeting one of his friend’s police scanner updates.
As a Deaf person, I was not able to follow the police scanner and keep closely apprised on this situation. I deeply appreciated the fact that Twitter and Facebook were there for me because if not for these two sites, I would not have been able to also keep my local Deaf friends and I updated as quickly on the situation. Not only were the captions spotty in the beginning, but throughout the entire crisis, the media was approximately 5-10 minutes behind. This could have been dangerous in some instances because multiple roads, highways, and even some businesses were shut down and barricaded.
Twitter (and Facebook to some extent), in emergency situations such as this, truly served as a radio for us Deaf. In my opinion, every deaf person should get a Twitter account for one reason – to keep abreast as much as possible when emergency situations arise. The only drawback to this scenario is that you have to be following the right people on Twitter in order to keep updated, which can be sometimes difficult to predict in advance.
But it worked out well in my case. Not only was I able to keep my local Deaf friends apprised, but also for several hours I was being the central news source on this crisis, for my entire network on Twitter. Social media for the win!