"house is on fire – we're out! shit" – Twitter proves itself again

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Thursday night proved that Twitter, once again, is not only a source of breaking news but also an amazing support network to people when things go wrong.

Steven Livingstone, a Scotland-based entrepreneur, was caught in an apartment fire with his family around 7pm Thursday night. According to his tweets, everyone got out OK, and he even went back for his elderly neighbour, caught in her upstairs apartment.

Livingstone is working on a project related to OpenID, but a fire which apparently emanated from below caught hold in his building as he worked at home. Thankfully it sounds like everyone in the building got out OK. However, it looks like their building is not habitable.

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone

    Wife said to me “it sounds dramatic”.

    I said “IT WAS DRAMATIC”.

    One thing i’ll say is that the amount of support from the community was incredible… much from people i have never met.

    Walking out into the hall with my wife, a 2 year old daughter and a 5 year old son and not being able to see in front of me is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.

    But, one of the positive things has been the messages of support i have received from people.

    This web thing might work :-)

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

    Steven – really glad you and your family are ok

  • http://www.travolution.co.uk Kevin May

    Steven – thank goodness you got out ok.

    Similar tale from the guy who twittered his escape from a crashed plane in Denver a few weeks back:


    powerful stuff.

  • http://www.flashcomguru.com Stefan Richter

    Time to check those smoke alarms me thinks…

    Glad to hear you’re all ok.

  • http://thayer18.livejournal.com Thayer Prime

    The lengths some people will go to to get on TC these days, burning down buildings – what next?! ;-)

    On a serious note though, very glad to hear hear everyone got out ok, fires really are terrifying stuff.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/newfolder/ Billy

    Good to hear Steven and family are ok, not really sure how twitter has proved itself again..

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone

    Thanks everyone!

    The value in the web was knowing there was a network of people who contacted me on twitter offering help – lots of them.

    Never saw the plane crash – sounds scary!

    I hope next time i’m on TC it’s for something slightly less dramatic :-)

    All the best for 2009 !! (and check those smoke alarms!!)

  • Jules Morgan

    Good to hear all’s well Steven :)

    Sorry to hijack this thread but why are comments locked down for the Digital Mission news post ? Mike stop being a fascist, I want to flame it please.

    In short, some cool companies there but I’d really be interested in a bit more detail on what the criteria were. It’s a VERY mixed list.

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

    Jules – Really? I was wondering why there were no comments on that post! Now enabled. Flame away.

  • http://smartup.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/why-twitter-can-kill-facebook/ Why Twitter can kill Facebook « Random Thoughts by Kevin Dixie

    […] Getting out emergency notices, fast, such as this on Techcrunch today. […]

  • http://www.johnsjolander.com/ John Sjölander

    Steven: Did you tweet that message before you you were out of the house? Didn’t twittring mobile hold you down?

    Glad you’re all ok!

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone

    @John Sjölander

    Hi John. I got the family out, phoned the fire brigade and with a passer by got the old lady out. Got them into a neighbors.

    Then I sent the message.

  • Mr Smythe

    Does this really merit a story? Twitter is great – we get it.

  • http://www.fwnetz.de/2009/01/12/house-on-fire-anatomie-eines-feuers-auf-twitter-und-warum-das-uns-alle-etwas-angeht/ House on Fire - Anatomie eines Feuers auf Twitter und warum das uns alle etwas angeht : FWnetz - Feuerwehr im Netz

    […] [TechCrunch UK] Kategorie: AllgemeinesTags: Gelesen: 1 mal […]

  • http://www.fwnetz.de Irakli

    Hi there, the main issue is that Steven and his family made it out safe. Glad to hear that, and of course about the support from your twitter community.

    As a “firefighter with a publication”, there is one particularly interesting issue about this story. I’ve spent some time now preaching Fire Services here in Germany to be aware of citizen journalists, ie anyone with a mobile and a camera.

    Now, in combination with twitter and perhaps a live streaming service like Qik, any citizen journalist can invite his friends and their friends to be live on the scene.

    This is one thing we as ‘999 folks’ need to be very much aware of. Not that we treat incidents any differently, but there is plenty of room for interpretation, often negative, and not a thing we can do about this.

    I am very pleased about Steven’s positive tweet re. the emergency services.

    On the other hand, these are mechanisms we can use for our own good. We are also competing for the public’s attention, and any little helps.

    So thanks again and, as mentioned above, the main thing is that everyone is OK.

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone

    Thanks Irakli.

    Yes – I would happily have streamed the fire for them so that they would know what they were heading to.

    They could also have read my twitter stream to know more about it too.

    Lots of opportunity here.

  • http://www.fwnetz.de Irakli


    although I do see potential for fire services to have someone with a “stream” on the ground before help arrives, I believe it is a huge logistical issue before this becomes reality.

    My issue was more from a paparazzi perspective. Fire Services recognise the need to talk to the press, but beyond “proper” camera crews there are citizen journalists.

    A wrong perception is easily achieved, and we must know where these developments are taking place.


  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone-Perez

    I completely agree. I dialed the fire brigade from the same phone i twittered with, some with some connections in identity it may be possible to prosecute anyone mis-using the service.

    I agree, lots of logistical issues though and i know close to nothing about the fire brigade (although slightly more than at the same time last week!).

  • http://www.electricmill.com/blog/2009/02/26/twitter-for-emergencies/ Twitter for Emergencies | Electric Mill

    […] firsts have also been recorded – first twitterers to be report from an air crash, escape from a burning house – and of course DM fails are always just a few keystrokes […]

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