Social Media in an Emergency


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I had the opportunity to speak at the CIO Forum & Executive IT Summit in Raleigh, NC today. The topic of my session was Social Media in an Emergency. I discussed different tools used to monitor social media, as well as 3 different case studies where social media was used in an emergency; Haiti, Hurricane Earl, and Tornadoes in Catawba County, NC.

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  • Today’s Topics

    Haiti and Social Media – background as to why we are using this technology

    Using Social Media during an emergency.
    Case Studies – Hurricane Earl and Tornadoes in Catawba County

  • How many active Facebook users there are.
  • How many active Facebook users there are.
  • How many active Facebook users there are.
    Number is growing exponentially by the minute
  • 130 - The average number of Friends a Facebook user has.
  • The number of people on Twitter.
  • The number of people on Twitter.
  • Does anyone know why this date is significant?

    Does anyone know where this photo was taken?

    Haiti beach January 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm
  • A catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake hits Haiti.
  • Social media sites became the immediate news outlet for information.
    Photos and status updates began flooding Facebook and Twitter
  • People used the hashtag #Haiti to spread information about needs and offers as well as eyewitness accounts in the area via Twitter.

    Texting Haiti to 90999 automatically allowed people to contribute $10 to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund which raised more than $10 million.

  • Message from The Red Cross after texting
  • Number of tweets with the hashtag #Haiti

    ~ 1,085,000+
  • Who is from NC?
  • Who lives in Western North Carolina?
  • Who lives in the Piedmont of NC?
  • Who lives in Eastern NC?
  • What happens when…
  • You have a severe ice storm in the mountains of NC and you can not get out?
  • A tornado rips through your town?

    An EF-2 tornado touched down in western Greensboro in Guilford County killing one person and injuring three others while an EF-3 tornado touched down in Clemmons injuring 2 residents. (Thursday, May 8, 2008.)  Photos courtesy of Forsyth County emergency management and the National Weather Service 
  • Or, a hurricane makes new islands where there used to be a road? - Hatteras Island, NC, October 3, 2003 -- Power lines have been installed on the islands still visible in the breach in Hatteras Island caused by Hurricane Isabel. Photo by Mark Wolfe/FEMA News Photo
  • Case Study – Hurricane Earl - Here is the scenario: There is a category 4 hurricane headed directly for you.  Forecasters say that it is going to turn north at the last minute and impact on your location looks to be minimal (but things can change at the last minute).  There are hundreds of locals and tourist vacationing in your town and you need to protect them from a potential disaster.  What do you do?
  • Who was talking? These folks were – FEMA, NC Governor's Office, The Weather Channel, The Red Cross. They were all using the hashtag #earl.
  • Hashtags are key in an event!

    Who establishes?
    What are they?
    How can the be useful?



    Connects followers and strangers…for a common cause
  • I used Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to monitor multiple search streams at the same time.

    Hashtags I was monitoring: #earl, #hurricane, and #hurricaneearl.

    I was talking with folks via Twitter that were in the area, and listening to folks that were giving out warnings and instruction.

    Ustream was a valuable tool, but I’ll talk more about that later.
  • So I wanted to see some photos that people were posting dealing with this storm, so this is what I searched for in Hootsuite…
  • went online in 1999 as a hobby site for its founder, Mark Sudduth

    Mark was driving around streaming live, the day before through the night of, and day that Hurricane Earl made landfall. This was valuable information since it was like you were sitting there in his SUV witnessing this storm. The service was free to watch, and there is a premium service that you can purchase that allows you to chat with him via Twitter / Ustream chatroom.

    Mark achieved this by using a Ustream account, a couple of cameras, and a Sprint Mobile WiFi connection.

    To see some of his footage, you can find him via Twitter @hurricantrack or at
  • On October 26th, 2010 Catawba County Government was having their 2010 Awards Banquet.
  • At 7:03pm, Catawba County Emergency Management tweeted that there was a tornado warning issued for Catawba County…From a Blackberry.
  • 7:10 p.m. on 10/26/10
    –EF2 tornado touched down 4 miles west of Vale in Lincoln County
    –Estimated maximum wind speed of 135 MPH
    –Estimated maximum path width of 200 yards
    –Estimated path length of 3 miles (ending in Catawba County)
    –11 injuries (1 serious) all in Lincoln County
  • At 7:11pm, catcoem sent out another tweet with more information about the tornado warning.
  • At 7:21pm, catcoem sent out another tweet with more information about the tornado warning. – 3 people re-tweeted this tweet.
  • Damage in Vale, NC
  • Damage in Vale, NC
  • 7:45 p.m. on 10/26/10
    –EF2 tornado touched down 1 mile southwest of Claremont
    –Estimated maximum wind speed of 110 MPH
    –Estimated maximum path width of 100 yards
    –Estimated path length of 2 miles
  • Industrial building in Claremont, NC
  • Damage in Claremont, NC
  • Damage in Claremont, NC
  • First round of storms had passed
  • Another warning issued…Hashtags #tornado and #nctornado beginning to be used by twitter users. First catcoem tweet with hashtags.
  • 10 min. later, another tornado warning
  • Opened a shelter for the people in Claremont
  • Some more tweets from 9:37pm – 11:01 pm on 10/26/2010
  • Another tornado warning, this time a little further east.
  • 11:45 p.m. on 10/26/10
    –EF0 tornado touched down 2 miles southeast of Terrell
    –Estimated maximum wind speed of 85 MPH
    –Estimated maximum path width of 75 yards
    –Estimated path length of 1.4 miles (ending in Iredell County)
  • Boat docks destroyed in Terrell, NC
  • Boat docks destroyed in Terrell, NC
  • House damaged in Terrell, NC
  • School closings – where to send people?

    We did not want to become the center for all school closings in Catawba County.

    Catawba County Schools updated their Facebook Page before their website to inform people of school closings.

  • Good example of how Facebook can be used in an emergency.
  • Using Facebook to send people to Twitter
  • Using Facebook to send people to Flickr.
  • This is an image of the Catawba County Emergency Operations Center when this tweet was sent out.
  • Twitter stats for catcoem 10/26/2010- 10/28/2010

    36 Tweets sent out
    24+ new followers
    32 Re-tweets
  • Let’s talk about content.
  • A newspaper without the correct information is just a paper – CONTENT IS KEY!
  • Online Content - A tweet, blog post, or status update without RELEVANT content is just noise. –

    Content is still key!

  • A couple examples of good, relevant content in a tweet.
  • Example of not so Relevant Tweet – Over much of Who, What, Where?!?
  • Is your content answering the…
    WHO – who is it affecting?
    WHAT – what are you talking about specifically?
    WHEN – when is this thing happening?
    WHERE – where is this happening specifically?
    WHY – why should the people listen to this content?
    HOW – how do people get more information, do the thing you are telling them to do, etc…?
  • Have an official voice
  • If you do not have a voice then others will speak for you…Correct information important?
  • Schedule Tweets and Facebook Status Updates with Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or other scheduling tool.

    Tweet often and make it relevant!

    Not as complicated as learning to tell time.

    To keep your Twitter account active, be sure to log in and post an update within 6 months of your last update. 

    Tweet regularly – Twitter’s policy about indexing/deleting inactive accounts.
  • Are you in front of them or hiding from them? Are you pub’ing the SM outlets that you are using?

    Even though it is important to have social media and internet policies, it’s still about people. The reason our jobs exist, are because of our citizens. Don’t get bogged down in the red tape.
  • People are looking for the correct information quickly…
    Are you meeting the need?
  • Tie this all together:

    Correct information quickly is key!

    Twitter could be / is being used along with hashtags to connect followers and strangers for a common topic.

    Be People-centric. The reason that you are using social media is because of people, give them the information they are looking for!

    Listen. Listen to what people are saying about you or the situation that you are in, with tools like Hootsuite, and Tweetdeck.
  • Social Media in an Emergency

    1. 1. Social Media In An Emergency Crash, BOOM, tweet…with a twist Slide 1 of…this might take a while :-) Lee Yount, Jr. Programmer Analyst Catawba County Government CIO Forum & Executive IT Summit November, 30, 2010
    2. 2. Today’s Topics • Background • Case Studies – Hurricane Earl – Tornadoes in Catawba County
    3. 3. …and growing
    4. 4. Million …and growing
    5. 5.
    6. 6.
    7. 7. Million
    8. 8. Million People
    9. 9. 4:52 p.m.
    10. 10. .
    11. 11. .
    12. 12. #Haiti 90999
    13. 13. ~ 1,085,000+
    14. 14. Who is from NC?
    15. 15. Who lives in Western North Carolina? Flickr: By Lee Yount
    16. 16. Who lives in the Piedmont of NC? Flickr: By Willamor Media
    17. 17. Who lives in Eastern NC? Flickr: By pollyalida
    18. 18. What happens when… Wikimedia Commons: By Cynthia Hunter, FEMA
    19. 19. Flickr: By Scrunchleface
    20. 20.
    21. 21. Wikimedia Commons: By Mark Wolfe, FEMA
    22. 22. Case Study – Hurricane Earl Wikipedia: By NASA Aqua/MODIS
    23. 23. Case Study – Hurricane Earl @fema @RedCross @wxchannel @ncgovoffice #earl
    24. 24. #cio140 #hashtags #bestcio_forumsconferencesessionever
    25. 25. Tools Used
    26. 26. What did I search for? twitpic OR yfrog OR tweetphoto OR twitgoo OR picktor OR mobypicture OR twitxr OR posterous OR pikchur #earl = Tweets with photos and the hashtag #earl (i.e. photos of something to do with Hurricane Earl)
    27. 27. Being there…without being there. @hurricanetrack
    28. 28. Case Study - Tornados in Catawba County, NC
    29. 29. October 26, 2010 7:00 p.m.
    30. 30. Vale, NC 7:10 pm 10/26/2010 135 MPH 200 yards wide 3 miles long EF2 tornado
    31. 31. Claremont, NC 7:45 pm 10/26/2010 EF 2 tornado 110 MPH 100 yards wide 2 miles long
    32. 32. 9:37pm – 11:01pm 10/26/2010
    33. 33. Terrell, NC 11:45 pm 10/26/2010 EF 0 Tornado 85 MPH 75 yards wide 1.4 miles long
    34. 34. @catcoem 10/26/2010 7:03 pm – 10/28/2010 5:45 pm 36 Tweets sent out 32 Re-tweets 24+ new followers
    35. 35. Let’s talk about
    36. 36. A newspaper without the correct information is just a paper Contentiskey!
    37. 37. A tweet, blog post, or status update without RELEVANT content is just noise. Contentisstillkey!
    38. 38. Examples of Relevant Tweets
    39. 39. Example of not-so-relevant Tweet
    40. 40. Is your content answering the… who what when why how where
    41. 41. Have an official voice
    42. 42. …or others will have one for you.
    43. 43. How to establish your voice
    44. 44.
    45. 45. People are looking for the correct information quickly… Are you meeting the need?
    46. 46.
    47. 47. @catawbacountyOfficial Catawba County Twitter Site
    48. 48. @catcoemOfficial Catawba County Emergency Management Twitter Site
    49. 49. @leeyountfollow me!
    50. 50. @catawbacounty @catcoem @leeyount
    51. 51. Lee Yount, Jr. Programmer Analyst Catawba County Government 828.465.7975 | @leeyount Baie dankie! ‫لك‬ ‫شكرا‬! Təşəkkür edirik! Eskerrik asko! Дзякуй! Благодаря ви! Gràcies! 谢谢您! 謝謝您! Hvala ti! Děkujeme! Tak! Dank U! Aitäh! Maraming Salamat! Kiitos! Merci! Grazas! გმადლობთ! Vielen Dank!Σας ευχαριστούμε! Mèsi! ‫תודה‬! धन्यवाद! Köszönöm! Terima Kasih!Go raibh maith agat! Grazie! サンキュー! 감사합니다! Gratias! Paldies! Ačiū! Ви благодариме! Grazzi! Takk! ‫شما‬ ‫از‬ ‫تشکر‬ ‫با‬! Dziękujemy! Obrigado! Vă mulţumim! Спасибо! Хвала! Ďakujeme! Hvala! Gracias! Asante! Tack! Teşekkürler! Спасибі! ‫شکریہ‬ ‫کا‬ ‫آپ‬! Cảm ơn bạn! Diolch i chi! ‫דיר‬ ‫דַאנקען‬!