Former KTXL Fox 40 News Director Brandon Mercer says Twitter moves fast and keeps Public Information Officers on their toes during emergencies, often transmitting information much faster than public officials
Social media is playing a more important role in emergency public information. See my video podcast, above, with Arlene Stoller of Morris County, New Jersey, on how her agency used social media to communicate during Hurricane Irene.


Below is selected information from Kerry Shearer's presentation on Social Media 101 and Use of Social Media in Emergencies

What is social media?
Social media are “primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.” It’s a change in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It transforms one-to-many monologue into many-to-many dialogue. (Source: Wikipedia)

It is shaping how crises are communicated and responses are coordinated. We need to understand how these social media tools can be part of an agency’s broader communications strategy, and how they can be used in an emergency to reach the public with lifesaving information and listen to what they are saying and experiencing.

Increasing communications impact
Social media reaches people where they are: via text on their mobile phone, via the web on mobile internet smartphones, on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, on blogs and microblogs, via podcasts and online video.

What you need to get started using social media
Develop a plan. What resources do you have to commit to the effort? Who will be the social media champion within your organization? How will you get management and IT to buy into it?

Identify your startup challenges
These can involve I.T. issues/web security issues, social media or communications policy issues, staffing available to update your social media sites, and equipment needed to provide updates, produce videos and other content.

Determine communication objectives
Define audiences - who do you want to reach? Select the online tools you want to use. Develop a social media policy so everyone has a good understanding of the parameters. Then launch your social media efforts.

Red Cross social media survey
Every August, the American  Red Cross releases a fascinating survey relating to how the public would  use social media in an emergency. Many would use social media to  contact authorities if 911 lines were unavailable. Download Full Survey PowerPoint. View their news release about the survey here.

Communicating during an emergency
I believe that, with social media, there needs to be a change in mindset on how information is released. Too often, release of timely information can be held up when many disparate pieces of information are drafted into a long news release that needs to run through the emergency manager for approval. One disputed line in the draft news release can delay the release of all the information. Social media is perfectly geared to the rapid release of small bits of accurate, approved information during emergencies, and it is how the news media tells us it wants to receive information: the moment it is available. As well, social media resources can be some of the fastest, most effective tools to immediately get critical lifesaving information into the hands of the public. Agencies needs to have social media tools set up and in place so they can be put to immediate use in an emergency. This includes streaming tools, such as, to stream emergency news conferences live on the web.

Media monitoring during an emergency
Many Emergency Operation Centers are set up for monitoring TV news broadcasts. But it is also critical to monitor social media for inaccurate information as well. Media is monitoring these sources too, so any inaccurate information being put out on, say, a blog could find its way on the air. There are numerous social media tools available to help you keep tabs on what's being said. Signing up to receive Google Alerts will help you monitor the Web via keywords; advisories are e-mailed to you. can help you monitor what's being said on blogs. And you can do keyword searches on Twitter to view realtime activity regarding your event.

Online Resources
Stay on top of social media trends, tools and developments
Kelly Huston’s web site with great information and tools.
This is a complete social media toolkit aimed at health communicators full of helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some is specific to CDC & public health; otherwise it contains a wealth of great information and tips.

Social Media “Production” Tools

Equipment and Software
It's all on my Pinterest page!


Send huge files quickly
Send audio, video, photo files up to 100 MB, avoiding e-mail attachment limits. Receiver clicks to download.

Social Media Policies
Online database of social media policies from lots of government, private and non-profit organizations

JIC/PIO Team Training
Karen Terrill’s company provides a 2-day Homeland-Security-approved course to train emergency communications teams

The New Rules of Marketing and PR
(David Meerman Scott)

Power Friending
(Amber MacArthur)

Let's Connect! Click here to periodically receive great tips, tools and techniques about using Social MultiMedia in emergencies.

LET'S CONNECT! Click here if you'd like to periodically receive more tips, tools and techniques regarding use of Social MultiMedia in emergencies.