Situational awareness (digital, near real time?)

This is equal parts suggestion, question, and brainstorming – I’m looking for ideas for gathering [near real time] situational awareness.

As I’ve read this site and others I get the impression that different parts of the country are experiencing things in very different ways.  I see people sharing images of empty shelves in a store on the other side of the country but down the street things seem “normal.”  I realize a lot of online content is more anecdote and less data but I also figure that with a lot of anecdotes you might be able to tease out some data/trends.

One idea (not my favorite) is twitter, there are some interesting advanced searches.  

For instance if I want to see tweets within 50 miles of Washington DC, this search term seems to work:

near:”38.901862736383556,-77.0102291245727″ within:50.07mi


likewise if I want to search for recent tweets about “groceries” or “grocery store” this seems to work (and would perhaps work through the end of the year?) this search string appears to work:

(groceries OR grocery store) until:2020-12-31 since:2020-11-15 -filter:replies


It seems I can combine these manually, too:

(groceries OR grocery store) until:2020-12-31 since:2020-11-15 -filter:replies near:”38.901862736383556,-77.0102291245727″ within:50.07mi


I feel like with a few saved search strings you could search your area for recent activity at various distances.  You still have to sift through random people on twitter but maybe there are more filters/tips I’m not aware of that others could share.

My only other thoughts on “real time awareness” are things like crime maps, however these often lack context (trends over time, comparisons, etc) so its hard to know what a “normal” amount of crime looks like.  These also tend to be specific to certain areas and each area may have different reporting parameters making it hard to gauge changes between jurisdictions.


Not sure how many tech/code savvy people are on here, but this was inspired by a surge in ‘bots’ to scrape retail websites for available stock of PC video cards.  I thought it would be neat to scrape data from retailers by store for stock of things like toilet paper or other “in demand” items to get a sense of where demand was spiking, but thats probably a bit niche and beyond my coding skills.

Any other ideas, either different resources or tips for refining twitter searches?


  • Comments (6)

    • 9

      Be nice to have a bot like that searching for ammo!

    • 5

      I knew about advanced Google search statements, but I wasn’t aware Twitter supported something like that. This is really cool, thank you.

      I’ve never coded this kind of bot, but there are probably open source examples/attempts available for you to take a look.

    • 6

      This is excellent!  I don’t have the advanced tech skills you are referring to, but below are some things I’m doing to try to stay aware of what’s going on around me.

      1. I’ve set up a couple social media accounts in which I follow nothing but local and regional news, as well as state and NGO resources such as the Red Cross, the state emergency board, state transportation, and the like.  Things always seem to move fastest on Twitter, but it does take awhile to curate your feed and find the best outlets for information.  That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many resources there are to follow news, traffic, weather, emergencies, crime, and health news- definitely look beyond your obvious local news outlets (like social media feeds where users monitor police and fire scanners and post when there are fires/accidents/etc).

      2. I’ve installed Broadcastify on my phone, which is an app that allows users to listen to police and first-responder radio channels.   Broadcastify is national, so just about wherever you are you likely may find it useful.

      3. I’ve made it a real habit to diversify my news sources.  Not only am I paying more attention to international news, but paying attention to the stuff that I find politically unsavory.  I wish I had been paying closer attention to international news a year ago, I certainly would have been a step or two ahead in my pre-pandemic preps.

    • 5

      I like PulsePoint app for knowing what is going on with emergency services near me.

      Twitter searches are also good. I like the ones you are proposing.

      Recommend also monitoring NextDoor.

      • 5

        I didn’t know about the PulsePoint app – thanks for the suggestion!

    • 7

      Good morning Rich of DC,

      Situational awareness can be deceived by the web, whether tweets or “news”.

      The 50 mile radius of D.C. is one of the nation’s most sophisticated areas, less some big pockets of the destitute.

      Just for brainstorming; … Research how, for example, an Asian grocery store obtains their wholesale inventories.  Save the energy and fatigue to learn acquisition prices. Nearly impossible to learn.

      The Virginia Dept of Business Assistance … just about every county has access of some sort … see http://www.dba.state.va.us … of learning access, allows to study up on how to establish a cooperative for buying and stockpiling foods.  This does require more than 1 person; a small group works but an individual would be supersaturated with info needing to be studied.  Time has a value and must be used for other things also.

      I’m an IT illiterate but most important is thinking.  Pictures and narratives frequently deceive.

      Please consider my above rambling to be “brainstorming”.  It’s not assembled in the best manner.

      Transmitting from a little grid south of you……