Policy Forum

Kobe's Lesson: Dial 711 for “Open” Emergency Communications

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Science  01 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5288, pp. 739-740
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5288.739


The 1995 earthquake that devastated Kobe, Japan, showed that conventional top-down emergency communications sytems—even those with satellite connections—can easily fail. Immediately after the quake, however, citizens began to contribute information to a computer bulletin board system, which quickly became a trustworthy alternative to official information. The Kobe experience suggests that an open-access emergency communctions system could be designed that would allow such citizen input not only from computer terminals but also by telephone.