Social Media Emergency Management
Hurricane Sandy Case Study
BACKGROUND: Social media can be a fast-paced chaotic world that is easy to get lost in. However, if utilize proper planning and training, social media can also harvest vital information, push important information out and help support your operations. On November 1, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit shore in New York City and sprung emergency response teams into action. As sources of power went down, Emily Rahimi provided a lifeline to stranded individuals through the FDNY social media accounts.
OBJECTIVE: Utilize social media during a large scale disaster to better communicate with public, partners and stakeholders.
CHALLENGES: Like any large scale response, rumors spread on social media and even caught traction on media outlets’ social media platforms. In addition, being tweeted at directly proved a challenge for Emily. Knowing when/how to initially to respond to these direct tweets for help was challenging due to the sheer volume of tweets.
SOLUTIONS: Rumor control was partly solved by relying on information from other officials social media accounts that had been previously vetted (NYC Mayor’s Office, Mike Bloomberg, etc). With other rumors, Emily would follow up with individuals who posted the information and investigate the validity herself. Emily consistently posted “Do NOT tweet emergency calls” messages while replying to feedback and inquiries on the fly. Emily would respond to emergency tweets as quickly as possible by passing the emergency information onto dispatchers.
TAKEAWAYS: Two key points always arise when talking social media, and they were apparent in Emily's presentation:
- There are a plethora of free, online applications that can help you monitor social media. Different applications have slightly different purposes, so using more than one is often useful. For example, TwitterFall allows you to have multiple searches on one screen. TwitterFall will search the entire globe for your keywords which is useful to know what people are saying about the response. However, GeoChirp allows you to draw a radius around the geographic area you would like to search enabling you to do a more selective or targeted search. Using multiple platforms is useful when trying to gain a better understanding of the social media conversation.
- To combat online rumors, Emily did a fantastic job of interspersing pre-crafted messages with replying to posts and messages that she felt most needed addressed. When determining validity of a post, it’s important to look at who is doing the posting by clicking on their profile. Are they located where the disaster is occurring, or is he/she across the country? You can gain information by looking at their previous posts. Is there any posts that shows they may not be a valid source of vital information? Acting as your own social media detective or private investigator is imperative to ensure the online information you harvest for your response is valid and credible.
Drew Downing, MPH