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.

Read the rest of the article at

Make Emergency Plans Now - Statesman Journal

Jennifer Bailey • August 5, 2009

When I ask people if they are prepared for an emergency, I hear something like "We've got extra food in the cupboards, and there's a flashlight somewhere. We could get it all together if we needed to." Nothing is said about a family plan or other emergency preparations.

I'm glad people have supplies, but what they don't seem to understand is that there may not be time to "get it all together." Recent research conducted by FEMA on preparedness showed 40 percent of survey respondents did not have household plans, 80 percent had not conducted home evacuation drills, and nearly 60 percent did not know their community's evacuation routes.

Nearly 20 percent reported having a disability that would affect their capacity to respond to an emergency situation, but shockingly only one out of four of them had made arrangements specific to their disability to help them respond safely in the event of an emergency.

Go to this Web site for details:

Our nation's emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they can't do it alone.

For example, Marion County has 826 firefighters. Just 252 are paid, and 574 are volunteers. That's 826 firefighters for 314,606 people. It is our responsibility to be prepared and to prepare our families.

Jennifer Bailey, formerly of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is the Public Affairs Coordinator of Oregon Emergency Management. She may be reached at (503) 378-2911, Ext. 22294, or