How emergency managers can use Twitter effectively

More and more, we hear about the use of social medias in emergency crisis around the world. With the rising popularity of these platforms on the international level, social networks became an essential tool for the emergency managers.

Recently, a study (What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises) demonstrates the benefits of using Twitter in emergency crisis situations. To obtain the following results, the researchers studied 26 different crisis situations for two years. These crisis situations were of different kinds: earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments, wildfires, etc.

The event that obtain the most attention on Twitter was the Boston bombings with 157,5K tweets. In comparison, the typhoon Yolanda in Philippine’s obtain 39,0K tweets and the Lac-Megantic train crash obtain 2,3K tweets.

An interesting part of this study is about the type of information that we find when there’s a crisis. For example, 20% of the Tweets are related to the expression of sympathy and emotional support; 20% are about the affected individuals and the most important category is the useful information, with 32%.

They also studied the tweet sources, which revealed interesting facts. Unsurprisingly, 42% of the tweets were from traditional and/or Internet medias, while 38% were from outsiders. However, it’s surprising to note that only 5% of the tweets were from the government. In some cases, this percentage was only of 1%. Actually, this statistic can be associated with the fact that the government has to verify its information before they publish them, which can take a long time, even in the most critical situations.

In light of the above, could it be relevant that emergency managers integrate a system of emergency notifications into their actual emergency communication system? It could certainly help to alert individuals in hazardous situations and therefore inform the population in real time. Of course, that raises other questions such as who is going to be in charge to send some Tweets on an emergency, and which Twitter account is going to be used?

Some communication system, such as Base Camp Connect could definitively integrate that kind of notification system in their solution and provide to first responders a tool that integrates Voice & Data in the first place, but also a possibility to share information with the public through the use of social media such as Twitter. We can easily imagine that in a few years, technology will facilitate the sharing of information in a way that we can barely not imagine for the moment.

http://www.basecampconnect.com

What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises: http://crisislex.org/papers/cscw2015_transversal_study.pdf