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Social Media Increasingly Part Of Local Government/Media Hurricane Preparedness Efforts

May 25th, 2010 · No Comments in South Florida has an article, “Social Media Likely To Play Role During Hurricane Season,” which describes how local government and media are increasingly using the new information distribution platform in their disaster preparedness plans:

Before a storm hits, the Internet-driven sites will allow people to monitor a tropical system’s progress, receive evacuation orders and learn which shelters are open. Unlike television or an Internet homepage, however, the messages are short and usually direct viewers to a link for more information.

After a storm, the social media will be used to alert the public about open stores and gas stations, warn which roads are clogged and estimate how long power might be out. This will be done by official agencies and the users themselves.

Officials say that social media augments conventional news sources, yet reaches some demographics better. It also has a two-way component that traditional media does not:

Most people will continue to rely on traditional news sources, including television, newspapers, radio and Internet weather sites to monitor storms. But those sources won’t necessarily reach those on the go — or younger people who use only social media sites.

“Social media is a very important tool for getting our message to customers who might not otherwise look for our information,” said Christopher Juckins, a meteorologist and technology programmer at the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County….

Broward County emergency management plans to increasingly use Twitter — in addition to television/radio/Internet and print media — to provide storm progress reports, notify residents when shelters are opening and what areas need to evacuate. It would be available on cell phones even if power shuts down and would allow the hearing impaired to receive information, said Judy Sarver, the county’s spokeswoman.

“We need to take advantage of every tool we have to reach the public with these safety messages,” she said. “We have so much information that we need to get out when a storm is coming.”

Mary Blakeney, operations manager for Palm Beach County emergency management, said while the county has a Twitter site, it will rely more on other media to relay important information.

The Twitter site has less than 300 followers, but when a storm threatens, the county needs to reach tens of thousands of coastal residents, said Blakeney.

“It’s really a new arena that a lot of people are starting to utilize,” she said.

The region’s major newspapers, including the Sun Sentinel, The Miami Herald and The Palm Beach Post, all send text messages to subscribers, providing updates on cell phones whenever storms threaten.

The Sun Sentinel plans to also use social media to extend its coverage of damage and other developments, said Christopher Tiedje, the newspaper’s social media coordinator.

“Basically, we’ll be asking our social media audience for updates from their areas,” he said. “Do they have photos of damage, is there ice at the corner store, do you still have power, can you get phone service? That kind of thing.” also offers a sidebar with a list of social media sites that provide tropical storm information here.

Thanks to Glen Gilmore’s Crisis Social Media Twitter feed where I saw this article.

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Tags: City Preparedness · Hurricane Preparedness · Media · Preparedness 2.0

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