Social media has changed the way people communicate, creating new opportunities for emergency management officials to disseminate important information to communities in real time. Leveraging the capabilities of social media can result in a higher level of recovery response, situational awareness and community participation.
According to USA Today, community members and emergency services in Japan used Twitter and Facebook during a 2011 earthquake and nuclear power plant disaster. Other examples of social media playing a pivotal role in response to global crisis include the BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand and unrest in the Middle East.
Not only is social media an important tool on an international scale, but it also brings smaller communities together. CodeRED client, Huntington County, IN took to Twitter to send out instant alerts about the severe winter weather that impacted their community much of January. Tweets included information about local government agency closings and indicated travel advisories. The late January snowstorm also prompted CodeRED client, Catawba County, NC to keep residents informed via Twitter using hashtags like #ncwx, #catcosnow and #blackice.
Emergency response needs to be re-conceptualized, incorporating social media into communication plans. This is why the CodeRED emergency notification system allows government officials to send messages via email, text message, phone, IPAWS, Facebook and Twitter – all within the same CodeRED user interface. CodeRED is designed to be an integrated communications platform. Recently, Avon Lake Municipal Utilities used CodeRED and Facebook to spread the word during a water shortage. Emergency Communications Network (ECN) encourages all emergency management agencies to use CodeRED as a single system to deliver social media messages.