Lost Chickens, Hurricanes, and Emergency Communication: What All Group Leaders Need to Know

Circle photo of a hand giving a thumbs down against a light blue backgroundWhen Hurricane Irma cut its breathtaking path of destruction through Florida earlier this month, many neighborhoods relied on social media app Nextdoor to to stay apprised of the situation.  Indeed, according to a report from Saratoga Magazine, doing so came in very handy in many respects. From pleas for spare generations to sparking telephone alerts, community members were able to stay informed through the sharing of helpful information. However, not all social media posts are helpful. In fact, many are misleading, distracting, and even dangerous — especially when stakes are high during emergency situations.

Here’s a closer look at the role social media can play in times of crisis, along with an alternative and 100 percent accurate method for disseminating critical information during an extreme weather event, manmade catastrophe, or other disaster.

Spreading the Word

When it comes to spreading the word (lots of words), it’s hard to argue with social media. In many cases, this increasingly popular channel of communication can be instrumental for promoting information exchange. For example,  the same Sarasota Magazine article highlights the useful role Nextdoor played in contributing to the success of a local home-grown music festival, Porchfest. Said a member of the planning team of the social media app, “It’s an invaluable tool, a great way to share information, to keep people alerted if an alarm goes off or a bike gets stolen, or if you have baby gear to sell.”

Certainly, all of this information is worthy of sharing. But while music festivals are one things, emergencies are another. In times where public safety is on the line, the onslaught of information found on social media can quickly become noise. After all, while posts attempting to locate the owner of a wayward wandering chicken and requesting help with keeping raccoons out of the swimming may be fine (and even entertaining) in normal times, they can interfere with getting essential (and potentially life-saving) messages through when disaster strikes.

Not only that, but social media is also easily manipulated and therefore vulnerable to the perpetuation of false information — both accidental and otherwise. Look no further than “breaking news” tweeted and retweeted during Hurricane Sandy warning about the imminent shutdown of all power to Manhattan due to the flooding of the New York Stock Exchange. The only problem? None of it was true. Rather, it was an inexplicable hoax started by one lone Twitter user. Today, the incident serves as a cautionary tale about just how far and how fast rumors — and, in this case, outright lies — can spread via social media.

Beyond Social Media

The good news? You don’t have to rely on social media for fast, accurate information during times of emergency thanks to automated messaging solutions like OnSolve. Designed to cut through the noise and “community graffiti” which clutter “crowd-sourced” channels, such as public message boards and social media, these simple, affordable broadcast messaging systems let organizations send important voice, text and email messages to constituent groups of their choosing with just a click or call.

Not only does this mean that relevant parties gain access to news, updates, and notifications as soon as they’re available, it also means that irrelevant parties are spared unnecessary intrusions. Factor in an extensive range of features, including everything from text-to-speech to real-time reporting, and the advantages of delivering your messages via OnSolve become even more apparent.

Ultimately, while it may be true that there’s a time and place for everything (including lost chicken recovery), the time and place for social media may not be during an extreme weather event or other mission-critical situation. Conversely, using an official notification system can help ensure that your critical emergency communications rise above the din.