THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DURING A DISASTER
We’ve come a long way in terms of how we deal with disasters in real time. Though alarm sirens and citywide announcements are still relevant and important, we now have new ways that utilize technology that can quickly disseminate information and ultimately save lives.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen increased frequency in reverse 911 calls. Text messages now provide some of the fastest and most convenient communication methods. And social media has vaulted into our collective canon for news distribution. We now live in a world where up-to-the-minute isn’t fast enough, when all you have to do is hit refresh to be up-to-the-second.
Nothing makes this fact clearer than a true disaster. During the Colorado Floods of 2013, for example, information on Twitter was reported, in some cases, 20 minutes before the local news channels. When that report is of a “20-foot wall of water coming down the canyon,” those extra minutes can be invaluable.
On the flip side, one issue with social media as a news outlet can be the validity of that news. During the Boston Marathon Bombings, many social media reports listed the wrong suspect as the perpetrator. Events like this can turn into gossip forums, which can lead to the spread of disinformation.
This makes it even more important for governments and municipalities to embrace social media. By providing information on official government channels, emergency management offices, police and fire, rescue service, and government officials can all provide accurate information in real time with the authority of their agencies. Not only will constituents get information, but they’ll also be certain it’s coming from the right sources.
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