December Best of SMEM List: The Weather “Guys”

Post by: Kim Stephens

This post is one in a series of the “best of” social media and emergency management (#SMEM) for the year of 2011. So far  I have highlighted either individuals or government agencies, but today I’m exploring the contributions of a group of people: tweeting weather trackers. This group includes folks from the federal government, local meteorologist and even some private citizens. I’m putting them in the category of “best of” for three reasons: quality of content, speed of information dissemination, and interaction and/engagement with the community.

When describing the data collection efforts of volunteer crisismappers called the Standby Task Force (SBTF)  Andre Verity, an information management officer for a large international humanitarian organization, uses the concept of zoom levels. People who have very close proximity to the event are zoomed in, people working from across the world to support the response effort are zoomed out. With regard to weather trackers, this concept helps describes the different kinds of “tweeters”.

NOAA, for instance,  deserves a place on the “list” for working hard to disseminate very timely information from what might be considered a low zoom level–providing the overall big picture.  It’s obvious that they understand the importance of social media platforms in order to disseminate information, and in some cases to collect data from the public as well. Last August Hurricane Irene impacted communities from Puerto Rico to Vermont. According to NOAA’s own analysis found in “Irene by the Numbers” they posted frequently to their social platforms and the public responded: from August 20-28 their Facebook page gained 68,000 followers.  They also had an increase in what they called “active users” with a 514% increase in users who gave feedback on the Facebook Wall posts, although I do not have any information regarding how quickly they answered questions posted there. I like how the voice of NOAA was  personalized by their Communications & External Affairs Director, Justin Kenney, or @JustinNOAA. From a twitter account with his picture–not NOAA’s seal,  he sent out over 250 tweets in 7 days. (See also Patrice Cloutier’s SM AAR.) During the storm the Agency also took advantage of multiple social platforms  including YouTube, which was used to disseminate animated satellite imagery–one of those animations received almost a million views.

Numerous other weather events occurred this year that illustrate higher “zoom levels.” In April, I wrote about James Spann or @spann a meteorologist from ABC 33/40 TV in Alabama. He gained almost hero status from his community for his continuous twitter updates before, during and after the devastating tornados impacted a large swath of the Southeast, killing hundreds. Not only did he provide details about the storm’s track, but due to his large number of followers (over 25,000) he became a curator of response and recovery information. He re-tweeted information sent to him by his followers regarding where survivors could obtain assistance and where volunteers could provide help. A tweetreach analysis showed that each of these tweets reached over 37,000 people.

Even this recent December snow storm, pounding New Mexico, parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, brings into focus the tireless work of these weather tweeters. Kerry Jones or @Peakwx  provides a great example of how meteorologist have adapted to the twitter platform to quickly provide information to citizens regarding dangerous local weather conditions. Moreover, they are able to zoom in even closer to the event by passing along first-hand knowledge of the situation from community members themselves, via re-tweets. This community-generated content often includes vital life-safety information about road conditions and other hazards such as downed trees and power lines. By both pushing information they obtain from their own sources, as well content provided to them by their community, they provide a high level of situational awareness to all their followers.

Other weather tweeters I enjoy following: @JimCantore @okicemap @timbrice17 @oktwister @ounwcm. I’m sure I’ve missed some great examples, but in general, this group deserves recognition for how they have expertly woven social platforms into their communications’ strategies–a seemingly perfect fit.

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One response to “December Best of SMEM List: The Weather “Guys”

  1. Pingback: Best of SMEM List: The Weather “Guys” | #UASI

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