Social media effective during emergencies

Published 4:40pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

In a weather emergency, effective communication is of the utmost importance. Whether it’s school closings, business closings or road conditions, being informed prevents a weather emergency from resulting in fatalities.

In the past several days, Dallas County experienced one of the worst winter storms in its history. The freezing temperatures and one inch of snow certainly were the worst results of a winter storm in recent history.

In the past, business and schools would notify its employees with a phone tree. Perhaps radio also played a part in notifying the public about closings.

In the 21st century, the Internet has largely changed the way news organizations and businesses can inform the public about closings. Social media has taken over as the communication method of choice.

Usually Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with cat pictures or cute videos, but recently we saw an increased amount of people talking about the winter weather and closings.

Power outages weren’t a problem during our recent winter weather, but in more severe cases an outage would prevent broadcast media from being effective. Social media is hardly ever affected by electricity. Though computers may not be able to access Facebook or Twitter during an outtage, smartphones always have access to the Internet through its data connection.

At the Times-Journal, we did our best to keep Dallas County informed about closings and delays. In nearly every aspect, we saw our social media reach grow tremendously. Prior to the winter storm, our greatest Facebook reach — measured by the number of people who view our posts — in recent history was 8,200 people. On an average day, our reach is slightly more than 2,000.

But Wednesday, the day after snow and ice blanketed our region. The Times-Journal’s Facebook page reached more than 10,000 people. On Twitter, our tweets about closings were shared hundreds of times. Dallas County Emergency Management’s Facebook page also saw an increased amount of traffic.

Sharing social media statistics isn’t an attempt to brag about how popular we are, but rather to show that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, is an effective way to communicate with the public.

When power lines go down, radio still remains and effective method to receive information, with battery power radios. Though, social media has increasingly changed the way we share information in emergency situations. In the future, visit facebook.com/SelmaTimesJournal or @SelmaTimes on Twitter for the latest information.

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