Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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April 4, 2012

Social media transforming how crisis and emergency professionals communicate during natural disasters

We have seen a wave of severe and dangerous natural disasters just in the last couple of months.  I had personal experience with the tornadoes that hit Indiana and Kentucky earlier in March, which was very scary, and my thoughts and prayers go out to those who are still recovering from this traumatic event.  Dallas (where I spent my first year in college at SMU) was hit by tornadoes yesterday as it created severe damage to homes, businesses, and communities.

Mashable posted an article discussing how individuals and weather professionals were sharing and commenting on via social media during the tornadoes from yesterday. In fact, the social media blog has even designated a complete thread just with the issue of tornadoes and links to post that are relevant for professionals to know pertaining to social media  Tornadoes and other natural disasters should not be underestimated – Mother Nature knows how to throw a punch.  Crisis communicators have to make sure to be proactive in effectively communicate and give residents time and the information they need to be safe across multiple communication platforms.

The question is – how do we effectively communicate in a systematic manner?  Researchers and fellow emergency managers are testing out new tornado warnings that are based more on the use of focusing on the severity of the situation.  However, we also need to have guidance on how to educate others in the community to let us know they are safe, what they need, and to also inform how they can let others know they are okay.  Project EPIC from the University of Colorado has launched an application called Tweak the Tweet, which provider some guidelines on how users can use this application through Twitter effectively by letting others now on social media what they need.  In addition, Facebook has provided information on how to use the site in case of an emergency or disaster situation.  The American Red Cross is partnering with Dell to work on their social media command center to be able to address comments, monitor updates, and evaluate the messages coming from particular regions during a severe natural disaster.

In summary, social media is definitely changing how professionals in emergency services and crisis communications are covering severe weather situations.  As Kim Stephens wrote in you iDisaster blog, while we have to recognize that people need essentials related to food, water, and sanitation – they also need information (or as Kim classified as being “information food.”)  We have to realize that people want to have control over what they can do and that they have the information they need to reduce their levels of uncertainty regarding the disaster situation.  More discussion and research is needed to make sure we are being proactive in using these communication technologies effectively and making sure that proper training, education, and exposure to emerging media is present both in the crisis and emergency community, but to specific community audiences as well.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,

Karen

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