Monday, 16 May 2011

There is more to twitter than breakfast cereals

If you're on Twitter, you know what I mean:
The constant: "Oh yes, Twitter. That's when you talk about what you had for breakfast and chat to celebs all day, isn't it? Not my cup of tea, sorry."

And even if you're not on Twitter, I think I need to tell you a little incredible story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:

The background is also part of the serendipity:
My home town of Arvika in Sweden flooded badly in 2000. During a visit, I became so impressed by the temporary flood barrier which ended up saving the whole town, I felt the need to thank the inventor personally. So I did. Found his name in a local paper, emailed and told him he really ought to introduce this barrier in the UK - with all the flooding we had here, in 2000. He said: "Why don't you do it?"

So, in January 2001, out of pure belief in something that I'd seen working, I abandoned my teaching career and found myself working as the UK Manager for Geodesign Barriers Ltd. Although my initial suggestion was just to help him translate a leaflet...
We provide temporary flood barriers to... anyone who wants them, really. We protect anything from garden sheds to big cities and anything in between, whether before - or during - a flood. Think: instead of sandbag walls or instead of 'doing nothing'. A Meccano looking steel skeleton with plastic membrane draped over it. Or, as it's often described: "The Scandinavian, IKEA-style, flat-packed solution." (No Allen key required.) Customers range from the Environment Agency, Local Authorities, Power companies etc. You might remember Walham, Gloucester, 2007?

Anyway. You get the picture. And here goes the amazing story:

Once upon a time, a Swedish Geodesign Barrier boss just happened to be in the US for a "Flood Fighting Fair" in Albuqurque, when the great Mississippi River started to flood, due to heavy rainfall and snow melt. As he already had some barrier stocked in America, he saw the possibility to help - free of cost, of course. However, having tried - in vain - to deploy the barrier somewhere in the Memphis area, he was now struggling to find a suitable place for it in the Louisiana district. So - come Saturday evening, I had a phone call:
"Britt, maybe you could try to find me somewhere, via... that Twitter thing?", said this non-tweeting Swede.

Of course I could. After some initial, pleading tweets to all my followers and specifically to the journalist types, emergency disaster contacts, various news agencies etc - things started to move, in that viral way that things tend to move on Twitter. Result! A few hours (!) later, my boss received a call from emergency contacts in Franklin, Louisiana. They had found the perfect place for our barrier.

And so it happened, that a soon-to-be flood stricken town in the deepest bayou of swampy Louisiana received a temporary flood barrier. A flood barrier which now will protect them against the predicted flood water - ETA on Thursday, at the moment of writing this blog post. You might have heard on the news that the Morganza Spillway has been opened to avoid flooding of the most vulnerable areas of the Mississippi delta. Tough decision, as consequently, other places will be flooded. Franklin is not one of them.

I must add that this would not have happened, had it not been for the incredibly speedy help of lovely Donna and Leesa at @info4disasters . They were the ones who ultimately put my boss in touch with local emergency staff in Franklin. Here is the press release they gave out:

Amazing what you can do from the comfort of your armchair on a Saturday night - instead of watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

The top two pictures shows the deployment.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so very much for such a generous offer. Being on twitter at that exact moment, when you were tweeting, made this all happen for our friends in the southern part of my state of Louisiana. I hope to get down there and see your work. I love the "Power of Twitter" amazing what networking through social media can do. Bless you all! Leesa