Social media has taken a lot of hits in the last few years for spreading false information and dubious advice but the reality is that many people turn to social media sites for disaster information rather than traditional communications channels with a recent study finding 70% of Americans turn to social media for information during a disaster. Given these statistics does your organization have a plan for the use of Social Media In Emergency Management? Does your organization have a plan for engaging in social media during an emergency? How do you plan on getting your message out, do you have a plan for providing accurate, official information to combat false or misleading information? Have you considered the use of social media within your broader incident communications plan? Have you considered how you might monitor social media for information from the community and how that can be fed back into the incident command process?

In a blog post on the Disaster Zone Blog entitled “Provide Disaster Recovery Information Before the Disaster, How emergency managers should use social media” author Eric Holdeman points to a study from the University of Central Florida finding that social media is “not only useful as a means of communicating for individuals but that it also can be a powerful means of gathering real-time information to assist in disaster response”.

The idea of mining social media for situational awareness is not widely accepted in the field of emergency management, with most focus being on getting a message out rather than finding actionable information to help modify a response. In a study that looked at Florida counties’ use of social media during Hurricane Irma, Associate Professor of Public Administration Claire Connolly Knox found “While 95% of the counties who used social media discussed it in positive terms in the AARs and focus group discussions, less than half of the counties engaged in two-way communication, or pulled information for situational awareness or rumor management,” Knox says. “There is progress in using social media, but we certainly have a way to go.”

Knox’s paper continued, “There are certain challenges such as correcting bad information and combating rumors, but social media can also provide rich information that properly shared can help emergency managers and their teams better respond to emergencies such as hurricanes, the researcher said.” To read more of this paper see

See More information on the following PUSHECS Council page.

Developing a Social Media Plan

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