While The City of Brotherly Love observes a near meltdown of its nationally touted city Wi-Fi initiative called Wireless Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Fire Department marks over 1,500,000 visitors to its blog. The LAFD Blog is not just any online information resource. It is a fully interactive communication and response system built on a series of free web, cross connecting 2.0 applications that supports real-time information flows through the network nodes. Integrated features include live Twitter Tweets, Youtube videos, Blogtalk Radio broadcasts, and live news feeds related to fire safety and prevention, fire events and statuses, and other emergency management news from around the region and country. The current post provides basic information about Twitter, a popular mini-blog and message system application.
Posts also feature embedded interactive fire maps developed in Google. An example of one of the LAFD maps related to wildfires in Los Angeles last October is embedded below. The map includes citizen reports and photos of fires. It also depicts the status of road openings and closings and updates on reported fires. Citizens can report fires via Twitter, phone or email or through creating their own Google Map that can be linked with the one managed by the Fire Department. The map can be viewed in Google Earth as well as in Google Maps. The map has been viewed over 880,000 times.
The LAFD approach for connecting web 2.0 and geographic information system and internet mapping tools has been recognized in the field of emergency management as the state of the art for reciprocal communication among responders and citizens. Such applications are no-doubt among the many that the city of Philadelphia had in mind when its wireless initiative was implemented.
Philadelphia's experiment in digital inclusion via the Wireless Initiative adds dimension to the LAFD participatory model. The Wireless Initiative's aim to broaden the citizen participatory umbrella through improving information technology access and skills among the least connected groups could have improved access to information and quality of services on the ground in some of the cities poorest neighborhoods.
ITSRG's focus on citizen mapping throughout June aims to continue the discussion about how to move the theme of digital inclusion forward by highlighting examples of citizen involvement in mapping.
Michele Masucci and Caroline Guigar