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Disaster Tweets

September 11, 2014

Tweets help civil engineers build higher performing buildings, roads and bridges.



9738700776_425bf5e6e6_b Bryce Bradford Flickr

A man documents flooding in Longmont Colorado in 2013, (Bryce Bradford/Flickr)

Disaster diagnoses via Twitter. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When floods and other disasters strike, people spontaneously share pictures and observations on social networks like Twitter. Now, civil engineers are using those tweets to quickly map out the hardest hit areas, and check on the condition of infrastructure, like bridges and roads. University of Colorado, Boulder civil engineer Shideh Dashti and her colleagues report that the tweet information was invaluable during a massive flood last year in Colorado.

SHIDEH DASHTI (University of Colorado, Boulder):

During that event we actually not send expert reconnaissance person to monitor the performance of infrastructure because the roads were closed. So the tweets turned out to be very helpful for our understanding of damage.


Without even trying, Twitter users provide a detailed picture of these events, helping engineers design stronger, higher performing structures for the future.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.