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FEMA will use social media through all stages of a disaster

Federal Emergency Management Agency

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FEMA will use social media through all stages of a disaster

From the next.gov article

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is set up to use Twitter at all stages of a disaster, before the event strikes, during the event and after, Administrator Craig Fugate tells Nextgov.

The agency maintains a Twitter page with just under 30,000 followers, and the administrator himself has a personal page, CraigatFEMA, with almost 6,600 followers.

Before a forecast storm hits, today’s FEMA can monitor local weather reports and Tweets to advise the public in the affected area. On Tuesday, for example, the agency issued a message about a winter storm likely to hit Oklahoma, New Mexico and North Texas through Wednesday. The agency instructed its followers to be sure to follow the affected state’s emergency management offices: “Another #winterstorm for OK, north TX & New Mexico tonight/tmrw. Prepare at http://go.usa.gov/akw & follow @okem @txdps @NMDHSEM.”

Fugate said his agency is careful to rely only on official information, such as forecasts from the National Weather Service and links from official emergency management agencies. “It’s really important I don’t try to pose as a weather service,” he said.

The agency also uses social media to anticipate what a state might need to prepare for a predicted disaster. For example, as Hurricane Earl moved up the East Coast in September 2010, Fugate could see by monitoring Twitter that tourists on North Carolina’s Outer Banks were evacuating, but many long-term residents were adamant about staying put. That gave the agency a heads-up that there would be people left on the barrier islands, and search and rescue plans were readied.

During an event, FEMA looks for what people are saying on Twitter by tracking the service’s hash tags***, which an eventual consensus of users assigns to mark a given event. During the major snow and ice storm that moved across the United States in early February, the most commonly used hash tag was #snomg……

Here is an explanation of Twitter hashtags (from Twitter)

Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

Hashtags: helping you find interesting Tweets

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets to show more easily in Twitter Search.
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category.
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet.
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.

Example: Below, @VegNews added the hashtag before the word “vegan” in their message. The word is now a link to search results for all Tweets containing “#vegan” in the message.

Screen_shot_2010-07-26_at_3.21.34_PM.png

Using hashtags

  • If Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet.
  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practicesrecommend using no more than 3 hashtags per Tweet.)
  • Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.

Further Discovery and Reading

  • The third party site hashtag.org offers an overview of popular hashtags used on Twitter. Find out about trends, look at small, pretty graphs, and search to see if the hashtags of your fantasies exist.
  • You may also want to read this article about hashtags, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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