Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Better Safe Than Sorry

How did you keep updated about Hurricane Irene? Was it Twitter, Facebook or the good old fashion news? I know it is emphasized how much we rely on social media as a primary news source but the proof is in the pudding.

During the hurricane I personally was checking both Twitter and Facebook to keep up with my family in New Jersey and South Carolina. Additionally, I also followed FEMA in the wake of the storm where they were tweeting tips and evacuation notices such as, "#Flood #safetytip – Follow direction of local officials, & don’t walk or drive thru flooded areas. Turn around, don’t drown. #Irene".

FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, has his own Twitter feed, where he promoted new FEMA apps that allowed families to check off items they need for disaster preparation and to receive texts messages about preparations and nearby shelters.

If we compare the communication process of Hurricane Irene to past catastrophes, we see a significant improvement in both informing and receiving information. I believe in situations like these the news from either Facebook or Twitter is getting more and more reliable and overall faster and more direct. Additionally it’s getting more specialized. Although Twitter was blasting with #Irene, you could choose not to follow anything related to the storm. Or like I did, choose to follow updates from FEMA and local news.

However on the other side, we have complaints that the media over emphasized the storm. There are even reports of families spending all their food stamps just to stock up on non-perishables. Even though Irene was not as big as we would have expected, poorly informed citizens could have been catastrophic.

Better safe than sorry.

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