Author: Farrah Gosford, Senior Planner, IEM
As all emergency managers have heard time and time again, communication is the number one issue discussed during after action reports following an exercise or disaster. By utilizing social media technology day to day, survivors are more prone to use this technology to verify a family member location and safety post disaster. In a blog posted by FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate on September 21, 2011, FCC & FEMA: How to Communicate Before, During & After a Major Disaster, , it was recommended to use text messaging, e-mail, or social media during and after a disaster to make contact with your family and friends so to not tie up voice networks. This is due to the fact that data based services are less likely to experience network congestion allowing your messages to reach the intended party faster.
Social media communications is becoming more popular as more devices are capable of interacting with the various social networks. The questions to be answered are whether social media is capable of being a medium for reliable communications during disasters, whether social media is appropriate for disaster communication information and personal notes from individuals, and can social media communications replace human to human voice contact that provide real-time feedback?
As we’ve seen in the devastating earthquake in Turkey, the answer can be “yes”. Approximately five hours after the earth quake struck Turkey, Erhan Celik, a journalist for Turkey’s Kanal 7 TV station, decided to tweet his followers. He understood that thousands of survivors would be homeless due to the earthquake so he tweeted his followers to see how many would be willing to offer accommodations to quake survivors. Within seven hours, after his initial post, there were 17,000 emails in his inbox offering assistance of some sort. The accommodation emails were sent to the Istanbul governorate. These emails lead to the Istanbul governorate activating a 24 hour hotline to take over Celik’s initiative.
As information gets distributed faster and without vetting, it may be hard to verify that information being posted to social media sites is in fact true or from the true source. IEM’s Disaster Social Network has been filtering social media chatter during the recent Turkey earthquake to provide a useful resources guide geared toward the emergency management community. Future endeavors must determine how social media and emergency management can become partners or work together in disaster management.