Missouri University Extension helps Branson Survivors via Facebook

Rebecca and Genevieve Williams of Neosho, Mo., the founders of Joplin Tornado Info facebook page, have created a Guidelines for use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery white paper with the aid of  David Burton, a civic communications specialist, at the University of Missouri Extension.  Below is an excerpt from paper about the use of social media during the recent late February tornado in Branson, Missouri. This section of the paper was written by Mr. Burton.

Branson, Missouri: February, 2012

A University of Missouri Extension storm recovery resource named “Branson Tornado Info” on Facebook grew to 14,000 followers just 12 hours after the tornado struck Branson on Feb. 28.

Actually, the page was put in place back January by David Burton, civic communication spe- cialist for MU Extension in southwest Missouri. “I created three new pages on Facebook at that time for Branson, Springfield and Greene County that are modeled after the success we had last year with the Joplin Tornado Info and Missouri Flooding Info pages on Facebook,” Burton said. The Joplin Tornado Info page is still very active, with more than 48,000 fans.

Facebook users can “like” the Branson Tornado Info pages to find out how to help and to learn about emergency and cleanup work from the organizations and groups doing the work.

These pages are designed to be a collaboration of state, federal and local agencies and organizations involved in the affected areas. The pages are managed by MU Extension but public information officers from various organizations and community volunteers with media backgrounds can serve as co- administrators, following a model used after the Joplin tornado.

The Hilton Hotel at the Branson Landing, just six hours after a tornado hit Branson on Feb. 29, 2012. This photo was taken by Amanda Smigiel, a nutrition assistant with MU Extension.

In fact, by March 2, the page had 11 volunteer administrators. The two most active volunteers have been Rebecca and Genevieve Williams, the mother and daughter team from Neosho, Mo. that were behind the establishment of Joplin Tornado Info. Persons willing to serve as administrators on these new pages should contact David Burton at burtond@missouri.edu after liking the Branson Tornado Info page. He will then send you the guidelines for the page and instructions on getting set up as an administrator. Having co-administrators who post information and check facts on what others post is important and was a key to the success of the Joplin Tornado Info page according to Burton.

“I logged in to Facebook at 5 a.m. on Feb. 28 and saw that this page had jumped from two fans to 50 before I even knew there had been a tornado hit Branson,” said Burton. “I got the word out to the media via email and we got things rolling. Before the end of that first day we were up to 14,000 followers. As we saw in Joplin, social media is a great communication tool during disasters especially because of Smart phones.”

The goal of the site administrators is to make sure posts are official in nature and researched. In other words, the official information is unbiased and research based, in keeping with MU Extension’s mission.

“On Branson Tornado Info, we don’t collect money for our own efforts and we shy away from organizations that are merely collecting money. We don’t post links about fundraisers, or groups selling shirts, trinkets and such. Instead, we link to sites that have collected information in lists, tables or officials reports and we answer posted questions. We learned in Joplin that if we are posting some new every five minutes the volume of the information will drive away followers and will unsubscribe. That defeats the purpose,” said Burton.

As of March 2, the page has nearly 17,000 followers and 12 administrators who have some clear goals and guidelines. Accolades for the page, and the quick response by MU Extension, continue even today. The news media has shown a lot of interest in the Branson page. “Branson Tornado Info” was written about in an Associated Press story that was used nation wide and also featured in an Associated Press radio story. Page administrators even had calls from reporters in Canada. But the local resident who was impacted by the storm was always the primary focus of the site and local people appreciated that fact.

Posted on Facebook by Susie Davidson

“Facebook was great after the tornado for those of us without power and could only charge our cell phones while driving. I had no other source of news and was so grateful for the City and others who got info posted here.”

University of Missouri Extension has a website that containing MU Extension resources that could be helpful to homeowners, landowners, business owners, emergency responders, volun- teers, partnering organizations and others with a direct or indirect interest in emergency prepar- edness and response. The information on emergencies and disasters from MU Extension is available online from MU Extension at http://extension.missouri.edu. (Screen shot below).

This publication was edited and designed by David Burton, civic communication specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

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2 responses to “Missouri University Extension helps Branson Survivors via Facebook

  1. Pingback: Missouri University Extension helps Branson Survivors via Facebook | #UASI

  2. Pingback: Use of Social Media for Recovery – Advice from the Folks in Joplin, MO « Recovery Diva

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