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Social media allowed an ''unprecedented'' two-way exchange of information between the public and those given the task of preparing for and responding to major events such as earthquakes, floods and infection pandemics, said researchers.
''By sharing images, texting and tweeting, the public is already becoming part of a large response network, rather than remaining mere bystanders or casualties,'' said the US team led by Dr Raina Merchant, an emergency medicine expert from the University of Pennsylvania.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors say harnessing social media could help emergencies to be handled in a ''quicker, more co-ordinated, effective way''.
The technology allowed officials to ''push'' information to the public while at the same time ''pulling'' in valuable data from bystanders.
An example of social media in action was seen during the 2009 swine flu epidemic.