Social Media's Growing Importance During Natural Disasters Such as Hurricane Irma

October 26, 2017


Twitter and Facebook were essential emergency-response tools during Hurricane Irma, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 18. Social media disseminates information faster than older emergency-response protocols can, and first responders and government officials in Florida relied on it to communicate and coordinate their efforts.

Florida’s tourism office sent targeted Facebook messages to 281,000 people believed to be visiting the state, advising them to take precautions. Gov. Rick Scott helped make sure road closures appeared quickly on Google Maps. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted frequent Twitter updates to warn residents of Irma’s shifting trajectory.

“It is essential that people have multiple ways to get information” on important weather updates, said Doug Hilderbrand, a meteorologist in the NOAA’s office of communications. In the past, the government agency relied on delivering advisories and forecasts to media organizations.

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