FEMA to use Twitter During Disasters
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it will use Twitter during all stages of a disaster, including before the event strikes, during the actual event and after. The agency maintains a Twitter page with more than 32,000 followers (at http://twitter.com/fema). FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has a personal page, CraigatFEMA, with more than 7,000 followers.
Prior to a disaster, FEMA can monitor local weather reports (and tweets) and advise the public. Recent FEMA posts on Twitter outline the parts of the U.S. experiencing flooding, share information about flood preparedness and give advice on what people in those areas who need help can do.
The FEMA director says the agency only relies on official information, including forecasts from the National Weather Service and links from officials emergency management agencies.
The agency also uses social media to try to predict what a state might need to do to prepare for a potential disaster. For example, in September 2010 when Hurricane Earl moved up the East Coast, by monitoring Twitter, FEMA could see that tourists on the Outer Banks in North Carolina were evacuating, but many residents were not. That gave FEMA the heads up they needed to make search and rescue plans for those residents.
FEMA looks at what people are saying by tracking hash tags. This is an eventual consensus of what users assign to mark a given event. For example, during the snow and ice storms this past February, the most commonly used hash tag was #snomg. During those storms, FEMA monitored what was happening by using HootSuite, a Twitter-adaptable program that displays all tweets using a given hash tag. Fugate said during that storm, they could tell Oklahoma was getting hit by ice and Chicago residents thought the storm had missed them. That was until they started tweeting that it got worse.
Following a weather event, FEMA typically re-tweets information from other government agencies. They use a tool developed by the General Services Administration that shortens .gov web addresses and can track how many hits each individual link draws.
The re-tweeting will most definitely help get the word out in bad weather situations.
Modern Business Associates is an HR company that focuses on payroll and HR outsourcing. We routinely work with clients on social networking opportunities. As a Professional Payroll and HR outsource organization, our clients rely on us to help them effectively deal with these kinds of topics.
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