Social media has become an important situational and response tool. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a course on the use of social media in emergency management that provides an overview of best practices in the use of social media technologies in their own emergency management organizations.
Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are used to monitor situations as they occur and to communicate crucial information to followers.
Twitter, the social media site that features 140-character maximum messages called "tweets," can be used to monitor situations as they occur by following critical information sources and specific hashtags (keywords or phrases that begin with the character # and are used to link tweets into conversations).
In addition to using Twitter for situational awareness, many government agencies use Twitter to send messages to followers about the status of the event, including information on shelter locations, evacuation routes, power outages, and more.
NLM Disaster Info feed on Twitter
NCDMPH feed on Twitter
"Twitter Alerts are Tweets published by select public agencies and emergency organizations during a crisis or emergency that contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions." (learn more) Alerts will appear highlighted on the timeline of subscribers and are instantly sent to subscribers’ devices as a mobile notification.
Facebook can also be used for situational awareness and communication activities. Often, an agency or municipality will set up a Facebook page during an event that allows safety messages from that agency to be posted to the community. Just as with Twitter, messages on shelter locations, evacuation routes, and other information can be posted. The event feature on Facebook also allows the agency to promote community meetings and activities.
Facebook includes a feature called "Safety Check" that is activated by Facebook during mass casuality events. If your location information matches the location of the event, you can "check in" on Facebook with the designation of "safe" to let your friends and family know that you are okay.
In 2017, Facebook partnered with major humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF, IFRC, ARC, and WFP to work on initiatives "to begin sharing actionable, real-time data that will fill critical data gaps that exist in the first hours of a sudden onset disaster." (learn more)
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Facebook page
Skype can be used as an emergency communication tool, allowing several people to talk from numerous locations, to share computer screens, and to plan response efforts on the fly.
Images or video being shared through Skype
Hootsuite is an app that can be used to assist with managing and scheduling posts to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Hootsuite can be used to schedule posts to multiple social media platforms
There are numerous apps and built-in smartphone features that should be part of every digital go bag, including:
Think about the tools and information you might need at your fingertips should you find yourself in a disaster or deployed for disaster response.
Disclaimer: NLM does not endorse any particular developer or product. Search the Apple Store, Google Play, BlackBerry World, or other appropriate app sources for your mobile platform.
Finally, once you have identified and installed the apps you want to include in your digital go bag, we recommend that you organize the apps into folders so you can quickly access the right tools at the right time.
Tip: organize your apps into folders on your device for quick access
In this section, we covered the following main points: