Monday, August 10, 2009

Social Media Valuable to Arkansas During Tornado, But Questions Remain

The warning came through, loud and clear:
People in the Mena need to get to their storm shelters now to take safety measures
9:05 p.m., April 9 from TinyTwitter

@artornado: shelters have been set up in Mena. 1) Dallas Ave Baptist Church: 300 Dallas Ave 2) 1st Assembly: 2221 Southerland
11:04 p.m., April 9 from twhirl

It was a whole new way for the Arkansas emergency management department to communicate with the public during the April tornadoes. For the first ever, the agency used Twitter to share real-time updates with those in the path of the tornadoes.

Dave Maxwell, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said it makes sense to use these social networking sites to communicate information.

“People are using Internet sites like Twitter to get real news,” he said. “This means that we need to join these sites to make sure the public receives accurate information about what is going on.”

And those sites offer one other benefit: Maxwell said even when the power went out, residents were able to stay current on information because Twitter provides the option of sending alerts to cell phones.

“Twitter has proven to be a valuable resource when it comes to getting information to the public during a disaster,” he said.

But even with the benefits, there are questions. Emergency management offices need to decide which social networking sites to include in their communications strategy, how to balance those with traditional communications methods, and how to ensure inaccurate information doesn’t create havoc.

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1 comment:

Jennifer Bailey said...

Jessica, thank you so much for your comments and for following the blog. Please feel free to make suggestions of topics you would like to see covered.