Post by: Kim Stephens
Emergency management organizations up and down the East Coast are using a variety of communication platforms to reach their citizens with preparedness information before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall. Ironically, as I sat down to write, I received a reverse 911 call from my local EMA about what to expect. In this post, I highlight three interesting examples of how organizations, as well as individuals, are using social media in advance of this storm.
As Pinterest (a platform that allows users to “pin” items to their virtual wall as a way to organize and share information) gained in popularity, the #SMEM community debated in a chat about whether or not the platform would prove useful to emergency managers. I have to admit, I was skeptical. One thing that did stand out: if you want to reach women, it should be your social media site of choice. A March 2012 article in the Huffington Post states:
What makes Pinterest’s surge unusual is that it’s driven not by the usual geek crowd of young men from New York and San Francisco, but by women, many of whom live in the Midwest and the central U.S. They use the sleek, photo-heavy website for fashion ideas, wedding planning and home design, or just to share photos of puppies.
Although I think the last sentence “…or just share photos of puppies” is more than a little condescending, the point is, women like this platform. Although public health organizations have started to use this photo-centric site, I haven’t seen many public safety organizations “pinning”–maybe because a lot of emergency managers are men, but that’s another post. However, in advance of Hurricane Sandy, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency sent out an intriguing Tweet:
As the Tweet states, Maryland EMA has gathered preparedness tips on one great page. The “Flooding” pinboard serves as an example of the type of content the user will find. First, they have pinned numerous pictures (including the one to the right) of past flooding events in Maryland. This picture has the caption “Hurricane Isabel: Flooding in Fells Point.” Nothing says “Get Ready” better than a picture of your street with someone canoeing down the middle of it! Secondly, the main flooding page has links to many preparedness, response and recovery resources intended for the public, such as how to clean up after a flood and how to stay safe.
YouTube is a great way to provide information, which is no surprise; this video from Neil McDevitt, however, really demonstrates the power of the platform to reach your entire community. Neil was formerly the Program Director of the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) project and also worked at FEMA’s Office of Disability. He created a hurricane preparedness video in American Sign Language (ASL) specifically for this event. I encourage you to share this with your community.
3. Google Crisis Response
I’m sure most of you have heard of the Google Crisis Response Team by now, if you haven’t, this storm is a great opportunity to discover the type of content they have aggregated on one map. As they state:
“This map displays information about current crises and events for which the Google Crisis Response team has collected geographic information. The data comes from a variety of sources, including official information sources and user-generated content.”
The displayed map has many layers that can be turned on or off, including: public alerts, weather radar, cloud imagery, the storm’s forecasted location and related YouTube videos, just to name a few. If your organization is using Google ”Blogger” you can embed the map there–it does not play nice with WordPress, however. It will be interesting to see what kind of “user-generated content” they post in the coming days. I can’t predict the size of the storm, but I do predict a Category 5 use of social media by the public.
Stay safe! And if you see an organization using social media in a new or creative way, let me know. When I get my power back on, I’ll write about it!