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Emergency management taking Twitter seriously

A history making earthquake on the East Coast rattled people and property from North Carolina to Boston. The aftermath of this rare quake showcased the power of social media during an emergency.

In mass, citizens took to Twitter to share their earthquake experiences or got in touch with loved ones and friends. It’s been reported that within a minute of the first shock, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets. After the earthquake, a blogger described this massive use of Twitter as “TwearthQuake”.

Based on the response and stats, it’s obvious that citizens took to Twitter during the quake, but what about the use of Twitter from an Emergency Manager’s perspective? Below you’ll find insights from three Social Media for Emergency Management thought leaders.

“Yesterday showcased a benchmark that society is on-board on how indispensable social media is in augmenting their communications in disaster. In my own social networks I saw numerous welfare checks and was impressed by how fast FEMA’s blog was updated with director Craig Fugate asking people to employ social media to relieve stress on emergency service providers. Thankfully, the earthquake was minor in damage and no deaths have been reported. As the twitter trend refocuses on Hurricane Irene, it is time for governments to carry the preparedness message torch while incidents are fresh in society’s mind. It is also a time to prove to any doubters that the correct use of social media can do more good to citizens than harm to the agencies using them.”

Hal Grieb (@Hal_Grieb on Twitter)
Implementation Manager at Previstar
2011 Statesman Texas Social Media Award Winner for Government use in Social Media
Plano, TX

“I follow Twitter accounts on my phone to have immediate visibility to breaking events whether or not I’m at my computer. That was the case on Tuesday as I was away from the office when the earthquake hit. One of my Virtual Operations Support Team members was experiencing the quake on Long Island. After getting to safety she tweeted me and others with her status and her needs. A significant portion of my Twitter timeline consisted of the hashtags #RUOK and #IMOK. Slowly but surely people checked in, reported status and checked on others. Social media tools and relationships once again proved very powerful in a crisis event. There is no question social media use in emergencies has matured and become mainstream and people of all walks of life are working to take it to another level. Think about it. Only a few months ago we were discussing whether or not social media should be used in emergency management. Time flies.”

Jeff Phillips  (@LosRanchosEM on Twitter)
Emergency Management Coordinator
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM

“Twitter’s use during the earthquake confirmed that it’s a great situational awareness tool to get a sense of what’s happening within the community. After this and other recent events, Emergency Managers should take the use of Twitter seriously because it is a fast way to share information with large networks of people. Twitter, and social media, is the glimpse into our future of Next Generation 9-1-1.  Being familiar with these emerging platforms will give emergency management and public safety communication agencies a leg up in navigating the technology changes which are sure to be a part of our emergency communications in the future.”

Cheryl Bledsoe (@CherylBle on Twitter)
Division Manager, Emergency Management
Vancouver, WA

Emergency Communications Network, an emergency notification system provider, understands the importance of using social media during emergencies which is why with a simple click of the mouse, our CodeRED customers can post Twitter and Facebook updates. Although Twitter should never be considered as your stand-alone emergency notification system, it should be utilized as an additional tool in your mass notification tool box.