When the disastrous 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last year, it caused a huge power outage and clogged up phone lines. So when victims struggled to communicate with loved ones, they turned to Twitter as a last resort.
Japan is now considering standardizing Twitter's use for emergency communications. According to PC World, Twitter Japan head James Kondo tweeted, during a government panel in Tokyo, that he hoped users would soon be able to make emergency calls on the network.
Kando's company has been updating the Twitter Japan blog in recent weeks with tips for tweeting in the event of an emergency.
“If your circumstances allow, please add #survived to your tweets. This will help when family and friends that are worried about you search on your welfare,” says one entry, translated by PC World.
Japan's catastrophic natural disaster wasn't the only time Twitter was used to save people's lives. Following Turkey's 7.2 magnitude earthquake, a news anchor tweeted an address where two people were still trapped, and emergency workers were able to recover them two hours later. Well-timed tweets have also been able to prevent theft, kidnapping and suicide.
If Japan's government makes is possible for citizens to reach 119 (the Japanese equivalent to 999 or 911) through Twitter, victims won't need to rely on users to pass or RT to the right audience. They will instead be able to directly get help even without access to power or telephone service.
While nothing has been decided, there are government agencies who are making themselves more accessible on Twitter. For one, Tokyo Fire Department opened up its @Tokyo_Fire_D Twitter account on Wednesday.