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To identify and illustrate the range of strategies and tactics available for emergency managers using social media. This study uses content analysis of more than 80 related journal articles, research reports, and government documents as well as more than 120 newspaper articles, identified through LexisNexis search queries. Three strategies, information dissemination, monitoring real-time data, and engaging the public in a conversation and/or crowdsourcing, are available to emergency managers to augment communication practices via face-to-face contact and through traditional media outlets. Academic research has identified several message types disseminated during response operations.(1,2) Message types during other emergency phases have received less attention; however, news reporting and government reports provide best practices and inform this study. This article provides the foundation for a more complete typology of emergency management messages. Relatedly, despite limited attention in the academic research, monitoring social media feeds to accrue situational awareness and interacting with others to generate a conversation and/or to coordinate collective action also take place in various forms and are discussed. Findings integrate the fragmented body of knowledge into a more coherent whole and suggest that practitioners might maximize outcomes through a three-step process of information dissemination, data monitoring, and the direct engagement of diverse sets of actors to spur risk reduction efforts. However, these steps require time, personnel, and resources, which present obstacles for agencies operating under conditions of personnel and resource scarcity.
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JEM
281
Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
Social media use in emergency management
Clayton Wukich, PhD
ABSTRACT
Objective: To identify and illustrate the range of
strategies and tactics available for emergency manag-
ers using social media.
Design: This study uses content analysis of more
than 80 related journal articles, research reports,
and government documents as well as more than 120
newspaper articles, identified through LexisNexis
search queries.
Results: Three strategies, information dissemi-
nation, monitoring real-time data, and engaging the
public in a conversation and/or crowdsourcing, are
available to emergency managers to augment commu-
nication practices via face-to-face contact and through
traditional media outlets. Academic research has
identified several message types disseminated during
response operations.1,2 Message types during other
emergency phases have received less attention; how-
ever, news reporting and government reports provide
best practices and inform this study. This article pro-
vides the foundation for a more complete typology of
emergency management messages. Relatedly, despite
limited attention in the academic research, monitor-
ing social media feeds to accrue situational awareness
and interacting with others to generate a conversation
and/or to coordinate collective action also take place
in various forms and are discussed.
Conclusions: Findings integrate the fragmented
body of knowledge into a more coherent whole and sug-
gest that practitioners might maximize outcomes through
a three-step process of information dissemination, data
monitoring, and the direct engagement of diverse sets of
actors to spur risk reduction efforts. However, these steps
require time, personnel, and resources, which present
obstacles for agencies operating under conditions of per-
sonnel and resource scarcity.
Key words: social media, crowdsourcing, situational
awareness, emergency management, public safety
INTRODUCTION
Emergency management provides one domain in
which practitioners and constituents widely recognize
the utility of social media. During disasters, relevant
and timely information can be the difference between
life and death, and social media—such as Twitter and
Facebook—can facilitate the rapid dissemination of
critical information. Social media is useful during other
phases of emergency management as well, particularly
preparedness, to build more resilient communities.3,4
As social media gains prominence, both government
and the public increasingly turn to these sources.5
Social media’s potential to improve government
operations and governance in general has been docu-
mented.6,7 Its use during emergency response opera-
tions, specifically, has received attention as well.8,9,2
However, less research has been conducted regarding
social media use across other phases of disaster man-
agement despite its value.10 Prior to extreme events,
for example, Dufty3 posits that social media facilitates
the building of social capital and promotes the recog-
nition of shared risk, which can lead to more cohesive
and resilient communities. A better understanding
of social media’s potential across different activities,
therefore, would be useful for researchers and practi-
tioners alike.
This article offers an analysis and synthesis of the
body of knowledge on how emergency managers use
social media across disaster phases. The objective of
DOI:10.5055/jem.2015.0242
282 Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
this study was to identify and illustrate the range of
strategies and tactics available. More than 80 journal
articles, research reports, and government documents
were reviewed as well as more than 120 newspaper
articles, identified through LexisNexis search queries.
Findings integrate the fragmented body of knowl-
edge into a more coherent whole and suggest that
practitioners might maximize outcomes through a
three-step process of information dissemination, data
monitoring, and the direct engagement of diverse sets
of actors to spur risk reduction efforts. However, these
steps require time, personnel, and resources, which
present obstacles for agencies operating under condi-
tions of personnel and resource scarcity.
DEFINING SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media are Internet-based platforms that
facilitate communication and content exchange
between users.11 Two types of social media are partic-
ularly notable, online social networks and microblogs.
Online social networks—such as Facebook—facilitate
“peer-to-peer communication and user generated con-
tent” and represent one type of social media.6(p267)
Microblogs—such as Twitter—allow users to post
short messages that are available to wide array of
actors.
REDUCING INFORMATION SILOES IN EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT
An inherent problem in emergency management
is the inability to quickly communicate across dif-
ferent scales of action, and the results of this type of
information asymmetry can include loss of life and
extended human suffering.12,13 Online social networks
and microblogs provide platforms through which
information silos can be lessened; allowing agencies to
communicate with other agencies as well as constitu-
ents and vice versa.14,15 These types of communication
networks can facilitate key processes for emergency
managers, including risk recognition, the formulation
of strategies for action, and coordination with oth-
ers to implement those strategies.16 As social media
usage rates increase, so too does the opportunity for
agencies to reach out to private citizens, community
groups, and other agencies.
KEEPING PACE WITH CONSTITUENTS
Americans are increasingly online (87 percent)
and, of those online, 73 percent use social media.17
More and more people access online social networks
and microblogs via their tablets and smartphones—58
percent of all adults own a smartphone.18 According to
a 2012 poll commissioned by the American Red Cross,
19 percent of all respondents selected social media as
a preferred source of emergency information during
disasters. This number is not insignificant. As more
people participate in social media and expand their
access to these sites via tablets and smartphones, it is
reasonable to expect that social media during disas-
ters will increase in relevance.
While government agencies have made efforts to
connect with constituents online, further efforts are
needed.19 The director of Oklahoma’s Department
of Emergency Management, Ashwood, for example,
pointed out that “as far as information sharing is
concerned, social media is in its maturity … [but]
from a public-safety standpoint, social media is in
its infancy.”20(p4) This comment suggests that while
people increasingly use social media, state and local
emergency managers’ efforts to connect with them are
only in inchoate stages. Empirical research reaffirms
this proposition at the state level.10
Despite an array of strategies and tactics avail-
able, emergency managers demonstrate varied will-
ingness and/or ability to adopt them. The independent
research firm CNA, for example, conducted a 2012
survey to better understand how state and local emer-
gency managers use social media and how they plan
to use it in the future.21 Results indicated a range
of understanding and willingness to implement the
technology. At the state level, 95 percent of respond-
ents indicated that their agencies either maintained
or planned to maintain an online social network
account; however, this contrasts significantly with
county level respondents (only 50 percent).
While most emergency managers used social media
to disseminate information during disasters, they gen-
erally failed to extract actionable intelligence from it.
At the state level, 71 percent of respondents planned
to monitor social media daily for real-time information;
only 33 percent of county level respondents planned
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to do the same. In terms of connecting with others
and generating dialogue, 61 percent of state level
respondents planned to use online social networks to
build relationships, compared with 24 percent at the
county level. Fewer respondents still planned to use
more advanced methods to aggregate and analyze this
data (46 percent of state respondents and 11 percent of
county respondents).21(p31)
While lower usage rates could be due to a lack
of dedicated personnel or other resources, one reason
leading to this uneven distribution very well could be
a lack of understanding of available technologies and
the strategies used to implement them. Research that
aggregates options available to personnel provides value
to both researchers and practitioners. Along those lines,
this article illustrates three strategies of social media
used by emergency managers, including the following:
1. disseminating information to the public;
2. monitoring open source data to accrue
situational awareness; and
3. engaging organizations and citizens
directly in conversations or the coordina-
tion of actions to reduce risk, including
crowdsourcing.
To achieve this, research and news articles were
identified and analyzed. The next two sections iden-
tify the data analyzed and methods used.
IDENTIFYING THE BODY OF KNOWLEDGE
Social media’s rapid contribution to emergency
management has elicited the interest of government
agencies, journalists, and researchers across aca-
demic disciplines. The most prevalent of this academic
research focuses on government social media use lead-
ing up to and during disasters. Relevant reporting on
government implementation of social media provides
additional insights as does research emanating from
computer science regarding platform innovation. In
addition, sociologists have contributed relevant findings
on how individuals use social media during disasters.
Best practices from federal agencies and nonprofits such
as the American Red Cross available via government
reports and news articles also provide relevant insights.
More than 55 academic articles were identi-
fied using Google Scholar and other search engines.
The National Response Framework, Congressional
Research Service reporting, and other government
documents (25 in total) provide additional findings
as do more than 120 news articles identified through
LexisNexis searches.* While this article fails to
exhaust the complete body of knowledge on social
media use in emergency management, it offers at
least a baseline assessment to identify key trends.
ANALYZING THE BODY OF KNOWLEDGE
The author used the qualitative software program
MAXQDA to manually classify concepts related to
how officials use—or could in the future use—social
media.22 Documents were examined in three itera-
tions (eg, open, axial, and selective coding) using the
Strauss and Corbin23 approach to qualitative data
analysis. Three general categories emerged from this
analysis: 1) one-way information dissemination, 2)
data monitoring to accrue situational awareness, and
3) the direct engagement of constituents and organi-
zations in bilateral and multilateral conversations.
The results provide a wide-ranging list of strate-
gies and tactics available to officials, some of which
require more time, effort, and resources than others.
FINDINGS: STRATEGIES AND TACTICS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA USE
IN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Three strategies—information dissemination,
monitoring real-time data, and interacting directly
with private citizens and other agencies in an effort
to reduce risk—are available to emergency manag-
ers. Many emergency managers disseminate infor-
mation via social media during extreme events, and
academic research has identified several related
message types that this article highlights.1,2 Message
types during other emergency phases have received
less attention. However, news reporting and govern-
ment reports provide best practices that inform this
study. Relatedly, monitoring social media to accrue
*LexisNexis Academic searches included the terms of “social media and
emergency management” as well as “twitter and disaster.”
284 Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
situational awareness24,25 and interacting with others
to generate a conversation and/or to coordinate collec-
tive action also take place in various forms.10 All three
strategies (eg, information dissemination, monitoring
real-time data, and engaging the public in a conversa-
tion and collective action) complement each other and
enable emergency managers to effectively augment
traditional communication practices.
Disseminating information
A significant portion of the academic research
focuses on the types of messages that agencies dis-
seminate. For example, Heverin and Zach1 examined
organizational and citizen use of social media dur-
ing multiple mass shooting events. Their message
typology provides basic descriptions of message types
related to opinions, emotions, and action-related con-
tent, yet offers limited guidance for practitioners.
Other studies—Bruns et al.,26 Sutton et al.,2,27 and
Hughes et al.28—provided typologies more applicable
to officials, specifically with respect to formulating
warnings, alerts, and advisories. However, all three
studies focused on the response phase of emergency
management as opposed to mitigation, preparedness,
and/or recovery. A complete typology accounting for
all phases has not yet been presented.
This section illustrates a range of message types
available across disaster phases. These message types
are intended to direct information from an agency to
its intended audience, generally a one-to-many com-
munication approach. Findings include the following:
Alerts, warnings, and advisories. Alerts,
warnings, and advisories provide constitu-
ents with real-time protective action infor-
mation to assist them in making informed
decisions leading up to and during disasters.
Resource provision. The provision of
resources offers additional message types to
inform and/or coordinate resource distribu-
tion among the public or with other agencies.
Preparedness education. Education-
oriented messages instruct community
members on how to improve their house-
hold-level preparedness prior to an
extreme event.
Administrative news. Online social net-
work sites can be used to promote pub-
lic relations and make agency activities
transparent in normal, nondisaster situ-
ations—what some emergency managers
refer to as blue sky conditions.
Emotion and opinion-related messages.
Emotion and opinion-related messages
provide opportunities to express grati-
tude, condolences, and commentary to a
broad audience.
Alerts, warnings, and advisories. Emergency man-
agers have long dealt with generating appropriate
alerts, warnings, and advisories leading up to and
during a disaster.29 They craft messages to 1) describe
the impact of a hazard to the public; 2) suggest what
actions the public should take, including evacuation
orders; and 3) announce facility or transportation
route closures.30
Online social networks provide mechanisms
for real-time, direct distribution of these messages
from one user to another. Furthermore, Twitter and
Facebook have introduced alert systems in the United
States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Through these systems, emergency management and
public safety personnel directly disseminate warn-
ings to users, bypassing agency reach limitations
created by a lack of followers. Recipients may repost
or retweet these messages, therefore, amplifying the
official government message.30,31
Resource provision. The provision of resources offers
additional message types to inform and/or coordinate
resource distribution among the public or with other
agencies. Messages could contain advice regard-
ing where to locate specific resources and whom
to contact, and could be relevant during both the
response and recovery phases.26 Lindsay points out
that online social networks offer opportunities to
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promote resource provision during the recovery phase
of a disaster:
[Agencies] could provide information con-
cerning what types of individual assis-
tance is available to individuals and
households, including how to apply for
assistance, announcing application dead-
lines and providing information and links
to other agencies and organizations that
provide recovery assistance, such as the
American Red Cross, or Small Business
Administration (SBA) disaster loans for
homes and businesses.32(p22)
While research focuses on how personnel use
online social networks specifically during and imme-
diately following disasters, emergency managers also
design messages relevant to other disaster phases.
Preparedness messages, for example, provide tactics to
promote more resilient households and communities.3,4
Preparedness education and advocacy. Renee Presler of
the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
points out that “social media has enabled the state
and local emergency management agencies to pre-
pare their communities by bringing preparedness
information to them.”33 Preparedness education and
advocacy represent efforts to educate the public and
improve community resilience to specific risks4; these
efforts can be implemented online. Examples include
personal preparedness tips such as developing fam-
ily disaster plans as well as drawing attention to the
potential impacts of specific hazards and the related
steps to reduce risk.9,10 Not all messages, though, need
be intended to reduce risk. Some agencies use online
social networks to make their daily, administrative
processes more transparent.
Administrative news. Social media provide a forum
to communicate agency news to constituents and
other agencies. The focus of these messages is gen-
erally administrative in nature and intended to
improve public relations. Examples include announc-
ing a director’s public schedule, posting employment
opportunities, and trumpeting agency accomplish-
ments.9 Again, these messages are not directly related
to field operations, but instead focus on administra-
tive accomplishments and public relations.
Emotion and opinion related. Online social networks
provide opportunities to express emotions: gratitude,
regret, disbelief, or condolences to a broad audience.
We are after all human and demonstrating emotion
can be an important aspect of psychological healing
at the community level.31 Bruns et al.,26 for example,
noted the shock and sadness communicated by the
residents and responders affected by large-scale flood-
ing in Australia in 2011.
Constituents may offer commentary on events,
political figures, and other issues related to an inci-
dent.34,1 Individuals may want to criticize government
action or an action.35 While agencies likely will prefer
to restrict this type of commentary by personnel, it is
important to keep in mind that individuals express
these types of opinion-related and emotion-related
comments, which offer perspectives on how the public
is dealing with an incident. Sentiment analysis or the
aggregation of these types of messages to characterize
public mood represents one method by which emer-
gency managers can elicit meaning from online social
network data. In the next section, strategies and tac-
tics to interpret this type of data are considered.
Accruing situational awareness
Another use of social media is related to how pub-
lic officials accrue situational awareness from open
source data. Endsley36 defined situational awareness
as a decision maker’s 1) recognition and understand-
ing of key environmental components and 2) his or
her ability to anticipate future conditions. Comfort’s
research,37 while not focused specifically on online
social networks, examined how digital information
repositories support the creation and maintenance
of not just individual situational awareness but a
shared common operating picture between an array
of actors to better inform decision making. Aggregated
information flow of this sort supports sensemaking
processes that are vital to emergency management.38
Open source data available via social media provide
286 Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
agencies with a potentially valuable component for
this common operating picture. In this section, key
findings include the following:
Real-time information. Online social net-
works and microblogs provide useful situa-
tional awareness related to hazard impact,
the needs of the community, and commu-
nity reaction and mood in almost real time.
Limited adoption. State and local emer-
gency managers demonstrated limited
interest and/or capabilities to monitor,
aggregate, and analyze social media data.
Manual analysis strategies. Both manual
and automated data monitoring, aggrega-
tion, and analysis techniques are avail-
able, although many emergency manag-
ers rely on manual techniques that do
not fully tap into the potential of big data
analysis.
Automated analysis strategies. Automated
data extraction and analysis platforms
offer opportunities to better understand
the nature of an incident through online
social network data, involving machine-
assisting strategies to collect and analyze
big data.
Useful situational awareness. In his testimony to the
U.S. House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness,
Response, and Communications, Jersey City, New Jersey
emergency manager W. Greg Kierce identified useful
information available through social media, including
real-time incident notification through
user comments;
community reaction and response to warn-
ings and alerts; and
first-hand reports, including photos and
videos, used to assess hazard impacts.39(p1)
Other useful information includes specific needs
during an incident, public sentiment regarding risk
prior to extreme events, and the operations of other
agencies. This information supports individual situ-
ational awareness and helps to build a larger com-
mon operating picture for the agencies charged with
response activities. Increasingly, emergency manag-
ers rely on this data source. For example, during
Hurricane Isaac in 2012, USA TODAY reporter
Natalie DiBlasio described how responders count on
social media for critical information:
Tens of thousands of relief workers, gov-
ernment officials, hospitals and residents
looking for up-to-date information are
using social media to stay abreast of
what’s happening with Isaac. It’s another
example of just how deeply social media
outlets have embedded themselves in
today’s world–particularly when a poten-
tial tragedy strikes.40
Sutton41 pointed out that public information offic-
ers (PIOs) now monitor social media during large-
scale, planned events and Hughes and Palen24 enu-
merated the increased number of information sources
and audiences PIOs must now consider. St Denis
et al.42 described how emergency managers in Oregon
dealt with increased task demands by organizing
digital volunteer teams to analyze data and report
back to the PIO. Computer scientists have suggested
machine-assisted approaches to analyzing data,43-45
but the extent to which these ideas actually have
been adopted has not been systematically addressed
in scholarly research.
The aforementioned CNA report provides an indi-
cation of the extent to which state and local emergency
managers monitor social media. Su et al. suggested
limited use and pointed out that “data-extraction
efforts at all levels are still reliant on manual review,
making monitoring efforts difficult to scale-up during
large disasters.”21(p3) The following two sections differ-
entiate between manual and automated techniques
and illustrate the potential benefits of more advanced
automated data extraction and analysis techniques.
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Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
Manual techniques. Manual data monitoring provides
useful—if not limited—information for emergency man-
agers. Both Twitter and Facebook users generate micro-
blog content. Following, friending, or liking a user pulls
their feed automatically into your dashboard; therefore,
an emergency manager could identify potentially valu-
able information sources—such as local television sta-
tions, the National Weather Service, and others—and
then monitor them to accrue situational awareness one
post at a time. Furthermore, a user need not follow a
source to read their messages, especially in open access
sites such as Twitter. Search functions allow individuals
to search for specific users and/or terms related to any
area of interest. The Department of Homeland Security
(DHS), for example, assigns personnel to this very task,
monitoring online social networks and microblogs “to
discover and track incidents that may affect homeland
security by using search terms to find items of potential
interest.”46(p25) However, individually monitoring feeds
can be challenging.
Su et al.21 identified problems related to monitor-
ing big data. As the number of messages grow so too
does the time commitment of individually analyz-
ing each post. Emily Rahimi of the New York City
Fire Department experienced this problem during
Superstorm Sandy when she “chained herself to her
desk… for a day and a half, monitoring the depart-
ment’s Twitter feed …”47 This example suggests that
one person may not be enough to monitor all feeds
and respond to each request. During large-scale inci-
dents, for example, millions of tweets may be posted
in a relatively short time48; therefore, emergency
managers would benefit by establishing systems to
manage this data. This, of course, requires expertise
and additional resources.
Automated techniques. Automated techniques for
data extraction and analysis provide methods to
account for large-N datasets that may overwhelm
an individual’s cognitive ability to process. Some of
these techniques are built into the online social net-
work platforms—such as trending topics—and others
require external platforms.
Twitter’s trending topics is a feature built into
the site. Twitter identifies spikes in usage rates for
specific terms and makes those trends visible to users.
Trending topics provide emergency managers with
a user generated indication of disturbances or other
problems.
Other data extraction and analysis techniques
require additional software systems. The American Red
Cross’s digital operations center created in partnership
with Dell, for example, provides a platform through
which personnel detect incidents and related need in
real time. Wendy Harman, the Red Cross’s director for
social strategy, pointed out
[The digital operations center] provides
us real-time situational awareness from
the actual people affected. For example,
we know whether there’s a large popula-
tion of people who can’t contact their loved
ones, whether there’s a big community
desire to volunteer, whether people need
shelter, food, or other supplies (as quoted
in Clolery49).
Dell modeled this software design on its corporate
listening platforms used to track consumer demo-
graphics, sentiment, and the content of their social
media messages. Similar attributes are analyzed via
the American Red Cross system located in Washington,
DC, but the system requires personnel, hardware, and
expertise. Within the digital operations center
“Six wall-mounted monitors display a stream
of updates from Twitter and Facebook and a
visual ‘heat map’ of where posts seeking
help are coming from. [During Superstorm
Sandy] the heat map informed how the
Red Cross’s aid workers deployed their
resources …”50
The success of the national Red Cross system led
to the creation of a second operations center located
in North Texas. Both DC and Texas digital operations
centers are staffed by a combination of paid staff and
volunteers, who confront a set of challenges in making
sense out of this data.51 Determining message verac-
ity and relevance represent specific challenges as does
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Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
determining the mood and sentiment of constituents
online. Much time and effort is currently expended in
validating data. In the future, automated validation
metrics may streamline the process.52
Bukhari et al.25 illustrated the application of the
analytic tools Radian6 and Visible Technologies to
analyze public sentiment during Super Bowl XLVI in
real time. Using similar platforms, emergency manag-
ers could ascertain public mood and reaction to protec-
tive action messages which could in turn inform key
follow-up decisions. Ripberger et al.48 demonstrated
this same potential using archival data to identify
levels of public attention and specific reactions to
two separate tornado incidents from 2012. Again,
whether considering the American Red Cross model or
adapting other platforms for emergency management
use, major considerations include both the costs and
resources required to implement these technologies.
With a more informed understanding of public senti-
ment and need, however, emergency managers could
more precisely engage constituents in coordinated col-
lective action and address public need.
Engaging citizens in the coproduction of knowledge
and public services
The potential to link agencies to constituents
through social media is clear. FEMA Administrator,
Craig Fugate, stated that “social media provides
the tools needed to minimize the communication
gap and participate effectively in an active, ongoing
dialogue.”53 The dissemination of information—from
organization to constituent—and the passive accrual
of situational awareness from open source data rep-
resent one-directional flows of information. A more
robust communication model is possible, however. As
Adamski, FEMA’s senior manager of digital engage-
ment, pointed out “in true conversation, both partici-
pants listen and respond in turn–social media is no
different.”54(p4) This type of two-way communication is
feasible online via social media.
Emergency managers can increase the utility of
online social networks and microblogs by engaging
the public and other agencies in a conversation; a
conversation that leads to the coproduction of knowl-
edge and, at times, the coproduction of public goods
and services. The American Red Cross, for example,
adopted those goals years ago.55 This section focuses
on how emergency managers can contribute to both
conversations and efforts to coordinate collective
action. Key findings indicate that
Adjusting communication strategies
based on new information and feedback.
Agencies can use new information and
feedback to adjust previous messages and
communication strategies.
One-to-one conversations and directing
content to specific groups. Agencies foster
conversations by responding to messages
as well as directing content to specific
users and/or groups to engender interac-
tion.
Rumor management. Personnel monitor
social media for false rumors and offer cor-
rections based on this two and multiway
communication practice.
Gamification. Some agencies have engaged
constituents and other organizations in
contests with the goal of promoting com-
munity and household preparedness. This
strategy is referred to as gamification.
Crowdsourcing. Agencies can tap into the
potential of their constituents via social
media by requesting users directly partici-
pate in solving problems, a process referred
to as crowdsourcing. Through crowdsourc-
ing, agencies empower people and organi-
zations to coproduce knowledge and, in
certain cases, public goods and services.
Adjusting communication strategies based on new
information and feedback. One-way communication
flow denies emergency managers complete informa-
tion.12 Effective emergency managers continually
scan their environment for risk, often relying on
partner organizations and other sources for new
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Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
information, interpretation, and feedback.37,16 Social
media facilitates multiway information flows that
allow for those critical exchanges.10 Using social
media, emergency managers can accrue actionable
intelligence and adjust their message strategy accord-
ingly to better inform the public.
Receiving information from and directing informa-
tion to individuals and groups. Online social network
functionality facilitates direct, bilateral information
exchange—one-to-one communication—as well as
efforts to communicate within larger groups, often
within the context of publicly accessible conversations
(ie, many-to-many communication). On Twitter and
Facebook, users are able to reply directly with other
users as well as participate in public conversations
via Twitter hashtags.
The most pressing need to use social media comes
during an emergency. When telecommunications fail,
social media serves as a redundant 911 system of
sorts. Even in remote locations and trying condi-
tions, people in need may be able to make contact
with relief agencies. Beckerman, the President and
CEO of The Internet Association, offered a pertinent
example which occurred following the 2010 Haitian
earthquake in which local government agencies were
knocked off-line and inoperable:
Within a few hours of the quake, a man
trapped with 20 other people under a
collapsed building in Port-au-Prince man-
aged to send a photo of the wreckage from
his [cell] phone to a cousin in Chicago. The
cousin tweeted the photo to “@RedCross”
and the Red Cross in turn relayed the loca-
tion to first responders in Haiti.56(p2)
This redundant communication capability can
literally make the difference in life and death situ-
ations. During Superstorm Sandy, New York City
personnel not only monitored online social networks
and microblogs for data but also responded directly
to constituents based on their specific requests. Red
Cross personnel in Washington, DC contributed to
the effort as well. “The [message] volume was so large
that the Red Cross asked 23 staffers to monitor over
2.5 million social media posts; of which, 4,500 were
tagged for first responders to follow up on.”56(p4)
In addition to bilateral dialogue, Twitter permits
users to direct messages to groups via hashtags, which
signal specific topics and facilitate the creation of emer-
gent conversation categories accessible to disparate
users. Hashtags represent a tactic to manage conversa-
tions and direct those conversations to specific audi-
ences. “For example, one might add the tag #oilspill to
mark the content as related to [an] oil spill.”27(p64) In
addition to hazard specific hashtags, personnel may
also consider specifying geographic region or community
group (eg, specific neighborhoods, and senior citizens).
Rumor management. The data aggregation and
analysis techniques discussed in previous sections
can also identify public misconceptions and rumors.
During Superstorm Sandy, rumors circulated from
the incident’s onset.28 One widely circulated message
on Twitter, for example, claimed that the New York
Stock Exchange had been submerged underwater. To
combat these false rumors:
FEMA began a Rumor Control initiative
… When a rumor was identified, the social
media team worked with … staff to track
down additional information and gather
the correct information. These details were
then added to the Rumor Control page,
providing clear language about the mis-
information and resources where people
could find correct information for each
rumor. Rumor Control messages were
shared widely by FEMA’s social media
accounts …57(pR-5)
During the 2011 catastrophic floods in Queensland,
Australia, personnel conducted similar rumor control
operations and “introduced innovations such as the
#Mythbuster series of tweets, which aimed to inter-
vene in the spread of rumor and disinformation.”26(p37)
Again, this type of activity requires dedicated person-
nel to identify rumors, validate information, and dis-
seminate responses.
290 Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
Gamification. Through games and contests, agencies
can engage constituents with the goal of promot-
ing community and household preparedness. The
concept, gamification, is used to describe situations
in which games are implemented to incentivize
work. One example is the “30 Days, 30 Ways” dis-
aster preparedness game developed by the Clark
Regional Emergency Services Agency in Washington
state. Every day in September, which is National
Preparedness Month, the agency posts a simple pre-
paredness activity. The public is asked to complete
the task and post a creative photo and description
relevant to that day’s theme. Each day a winner is
chosen and given a prize. The goal is to generate vis-
ibility for preparedness and educate the public on
specific tasks.
Crowdsourcing. Haddow and Haddow define crowd-
sourcing as “making an open call to the public asking
for solutions to a problem.”11(p27) Mergel points out that
this involves “outsourcing tasks to a relatively large
group of people, each of whom contributes to the end
result.”6(p264) In the CNA survey, 33 percent of state
respondents and 21 percent of county respondents
indicated that they already use social media to “lever-
age citizens as a force multiplier (e.g., deliver food, clear
roadways, engage in search and rescue efforts).”21(p42)
While these statistics indicate that a sizable minority
of agencies already crowd source, the survey results
also suggest that most personnel are unfamiliar with
even the term crowdsourcing in additional to the plat-
forms used to facilitate it. Work clearly needs to be to
more effectively use social media to incorporate the
public in emergency management activities.
Evidence suggests that crowdsourcing can be
effectively used to coproduce knowledge and public
services, including
Digital mapping. Mapping programs such
as Google Maps and Ushahidi can be used
by multiple users to generate visuals
related to hazard impact and community
need.11 Online social networks and micro-
blogs can direct contributors and consum-
ers to these platforms.
Hazard assessments. Agencies can request
the public to post photos, videos, and
descriptions of hazard impacts coupled
with geolocation data to generate data for
official hazard assessments.
Intelligence gathering. In addition to haz-
ard impact information, emergency man-
agers can use strategies to gather other
pieces of critical information. Law enforce-
ment agencies, for example, have engaged
the public via social media for suspect
identification; one of the most notable
examples being the investigation which
followed the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Reuniting friends and family. Agencies
can encourage citizens to turn to social
networks and microblogs to connect
friends and loved ones following a dis-
aster. In addition, applications such as
Google Person Finder enable the quick
and efficient identification of individuals
via simple search processes.
Volunteer recruitment, fundraising, and
other resource acquisition. Social media
can be used for volunteer recruitment as
well as fundraising and resource requests,
not just during a disaster but during other
disaster phases as well.
Crowdsourcing is particularly useful for volun-
teer recruitment and coordination. Past research
describe emergent, self-organizing volunteers fol-
lowing the Haitian earthquake58 and Superstorm
Sandy.59 Coordinated tasks vary, but are likely to
include emergency support functions such as mass
sheltering, debris removal, and search and rescue
activities. Oklahoma emergency manager, Ashwood,
points out
Often after a disaster, volunteer work groups
come in quickly to assist communities.
Without a robust volunteer management
291
Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
system in place, the influx of personnel
could become a management concern.
Social media has been able to bridge the
gap between the need for volunteers and
the chaos which could occur in the absence
of coordination.20(p5)
Online social networks and microblogs provide
fund-raising capabilities as well.26 Sutton et al.27 find
evidence of online fundraising following the Boston
Marathon Bombing. Whether online or through text
messages, concerned individuals are able to donate
funds for relief efforts. Online social networks facili-
tate friend-to-friend fundraising requests as well as
solicitations directly from agencies involved.
In the first 48 hours following the Haitian
Earthquake, the Red Cross raised more
than $3 million dollars from people texting
a $10 donation. ‘Crowd funding’ empowers
citizens to donate to, and solicit donations
for, victims of disasters through posts to
Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and
other social media sites.56(p3-4)
Crowdsourcing strategies, if implemented effec-
tively, could significantly improve emergency man-
agement outcomes by engaging the public’s resources
and capabilities. Volunteer recruitment, fundraising,
and other resource acquisition tactics represent avail-
able approaches.
DISCUSSION
Based on the analysis of the literature and other
documents, emergency managers have several strate-
gies from which to choose regarding social media use;
all of which, however, require time, effort, and addi-
tional levels of resources. Table 1 recaps key findings
from each approach.
First, social media provide platforms by which to
rapidly disseminate information to the public. This one-
to-many communication approach corresponds with tra-
ditional PIO functions but requires the timely approval
and release of public information to facilitate real-time
distribution.24 A number of one-way message types can
be disseminated across different disaster phases, rang-
ing from alerts and warnings to administrative news.
Second, social media offer open source data from
which officials can accrue situational awareness. This
Table 1.Strategies and tactics available for social media use in emergency management
Information
dissemination
Data monitoring &
analysis
Conversations &
coordinated action
Description Emergency managers
disseminate information using
a number of message types.
Emergency managers moni-
tor and analyze data to accrue
situational awareness.
Emergency managers engage
others in conversations and
coordinate collective action.
Activities/information
products
Alerts, warnings, and adviso-
ries Individual account monitoring One-to-one conversations
Resource provision Team monitoring Group targeting
Preparedness education Software analysis of big data Message adjustment
Administrative news Rumor management
Opinion-related messages Gamification
Crowdsourcing
Direction of information One-way: from agency to
public
One-way: from public to
agency
Two-way or multiway: from
public to agency, agency to
public, or many to many
292 Journal of Emergency Management
Vol. 13, No. 4, July/August 2015
approach can be implemented ad hoc using available
search engines or with more sophisticated monitoring
platforms.60 Hughes and Palen24 described how local
emergency managers in Oregon, for example, organ-
ized a volunteer team to manually analyze social
media data, and the American Red Cross has invested
considerable time and resources in implementing
their digital operations center, which incorporates
both manual and machine-assisted techniques.
Finally, social media empower officials to generate
conversations with constituents regarding risk reduc-
tion and facilitate coordination between disparate
groups and organizations, which may produce posi-
tive results. However, to implement this approach at
a large scale requires personnel to dedicate time and
effort on a regular basis.20,42 On related note, agen-
cies establishing social media policies should plan for
whether accounts will be monitored during extreme
events. If not, disclaimers should readily appear on the
account as not to mislead constituents seeking help.
While this article provides the foundation for a
more complete typology of emergency management
messages, future research could empirically demon-
strate the extent to which these types across disaster
phases are implemented in practice. The accrual of
situational awareness through open source data moni-
toring is another area to examine. Computer scientists
have illustrated data monitoring and aggregation
tools that allow practitioners to accrue situational
awareness.43-45 However, many of these concepts have
not yet made it to market; therefore, many practi-
tioners have yet to be exposed to these concepts. The
American Red Cross, for example, has implemented
new monitoring technology with positive outcomes, yet
this case has not received significant attention. Future
research might examine the machine-assisted analytic
strategies adopted by DHS and other agencies.25
It is important to note the limitations of online
social networks and microblogs in terms of access.
Social media use varies across demographics and
geographic location. It is also important to note that
online social networks represent one piece of a larger
communication strategy and should be examined
within the context of other information and commu-
nication technology systems.
Finally, this area of research has broader implica-
tions on governance as well. The adoption and use of
social media serve three primary functions related
to improving government and governance, accord-
ing to Mergel.6 Those three functions are increasing
transparency, public participation, and interagency
collaboration. The analysis of social media research—
reported in this article—indicates that these func-
tions are attainable within the policy domain of emer-
gency management. Agencies charged with response
have the opportunity to engage the public and other
organizations through information dissemination;
they monitor real-time data; they engage diverse sets
of actors in an effort to reduce risk. In doing so, they
empower constituents and other agencies. Future
research could examine the extent to which online
social networks reduce information silos between
government agencies and affect the performance of
polycentric systems of emergency management.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author thanks Dr. Ines Mergel, Dr. Ashley Ross, Dr. Alan
Steinberg, Ashish Khemka, and the reviewers for their constructive
feedback.
Clayton Wukich, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Political
Science, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.
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... The airport and seaport were all destroyed and no shipping activity could safely enter the port due to the collapsed piers. As reiterated in the fact, the Embassy of the United States in Haiti was undamaged and this allowed its personnel and aid workers to establish contact with the Haitian Government and initiate a response effort (Clayton, 2015). In response to this tragedy, the United States Government relied on social media technologies to coordinate knowledge and integrated actions with different key actors and within hours, the search and secure team were set to embark for Haiti from all over the world to coordinate the joint-humanitarian operations (Hou & Shi, 2011). ...
... In response to this tragedy, the United States Government relied on social media technologies to coordinate knowledge and integrated actions with different key actors and within hours, the search and secure team were set to embark for Haiti from all over the world to coordinate the joint-humanitarian operations (Hou & Shi, 2011). It is also important to highlight that the necessity to host foreign leaders and the United Nations officials with the provision of the thorough security measures also posed substantial challenges to the ground operations (Clayton, 2015). ...
... This improves the ability to not only coordinate widespread communication and strengthen information flows, but also translates the knowledge for better visibility and greater knowledge reuse. In the past decades, we perceived that the majority of knowledge was normally shared and acquired during formal briefings, which may not leverage the social aspect of disaster information exchange and therefore may not be robust enough to efficiently manage resources during a crisis (Clayton, 2015). However, social media technologies in the digital age may be useful beyond information management because it enables the Haitian Government to create a path to work with the international community and mobilize incredible responses and identifies when different functions are working on the same problems from different needs. ...
Thesis
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Social media has become the most widely used and active way of communication, thus, studies that examine social media use in crisis communication are in their growing phase and there is still limited guidance in literature to aid organizations with the selection of an effective communication method in times of crisis. Traditional theories on crisis communication may not adequately represent the social media context. Indeed, social media use in the digital age affords an opportunity to rapidly distribute crisis-related information and in doing so to mitigate the impact of crises by influencing public reactions and galvanizing the population to undertake integrated activities. This study employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches to explore organizational use of social media for crisis communication in the public sector and the impact of Facebook and Twitter as tools for communicating risks to the public. The findings indicated that as social media offers a two-way communication, information flows more rapidly and this has an impact on how crisis is perceived. It also suffices a broad range of information to reach a global scale in a split second and creates a new route for both organizations and the public to produce their own contents, monitor potential crisis issues, and engage more actively in decentralized speedy communication.
... While social media allow for greater speed in the transmission of information (Basch, Basch, Hillyer, & Jaime, 2020), the use of social media by public authorities has also become increasingly widespread in recent years in the management of various general crises (Chatfield & Reddick, 2018) and public health crises in particular (Sharma, Yadav, Yadav, & Ferdinand, 2017;Signorini, Segre, & Polgreen, 2011). Many roles are assigned to social media related to the management of health crises (Alexander, 2014), and these may vary during the various phases of the crisis (Lindsay, 2011;Mori et al., 2020;Pan & Meng, 2016;Wukich, 2015): social media are used as a means to disclose information and updates on developments; decisions taken by the government and public institutions; general recommendations on measures to be taken at the individual level; and the existence of logistical, psychological, food, social, medical, and financial support (Chatfield & Reddick, 2018;Sharma et al., 2017;Signorini et al., 2011). Social media are also used to observe public opinion and behavior; combat misinformation and clarify information overload (Panagiotopoulos, Barnett, Bigdeli, & Sams, 2016); channel and mobilize human resources, for example through volunteering campaigns (Lovari & Bowen, 2020;White, 2011); and maximize the number of people who are aware of the seriousness of the situation and their responsibilities (Wukich, 2015). ...
... Many roles are assigned to social media related to the management of health crises (Alexander, 2014), and these may vary during the various phases of the crisis (Lindsay, 2011;Mori et al., 2020;Pan & Meng, 2016;Wukich, 2015): social media are used as a means to disclose information and updates on developments; decisions taken by the government and public institutions; general recommendations on measures to be taken at the individual level; and the existence of logistical, psychological, food, social, medical, and financial support (Chatfield & Reddick, 2018;Sharma et al., 2017;Signorini et al., 2011). Social media are also used to observe public opinion and behavior; combat misinformation and clarify information overload (Panagiotopoulos, Barnett, Bigdeli, & Sams, 2016); channel and mobilize human resources, for example through volunteering campaigns (Lovari & Bowen, 2020;White, 2011); and maximize the number of people who are aware of the seriousness of the situation and their responsibilities (Wukich, 2015). ...
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While the use of social media by local governments has gained relevance in recent years, crises are critical situations that reinforce the need to reach citizens to disclose information, demonstrate the government's commitment, and increase the citizens' level of preparedness and awareness of resources. This paper examines the factors that influenced local governments' e-disclosure during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. To accomplish this objective, we systematically tracked every post published by the official Facebook page of 304 Portuguese municipalities between March 2 and July 5, 2020. The findings show that financial autonomy is the main predictor of e-disclosure, factors varied on the different phases of the pandemic's first wave, and sociodemographic factors became more prevalent as explanatory factors when the crisis worsened. Our study may help increase the level of preparedness during possible future crises. In particular, establishing communication strategies for prolonged public health crises, making financial resources available for the accomplishment of such strategies, and reducing the digital divide can contribute to more effective disclosure. Future research should explore the dynamics of disclosure during public health crises. This study also highlights the need to incorporate time in research that focuses on the determinants of e-disclosure that could also be tested in normal times.
... The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been a global public health crisis. As of December 31, 2021, the coronavirus has infected over 290 million people worldwide in 224 counties/regions and caused over 5.4 million deaths (Worldometers, 2021). The United States is one of the hardest-hit countries with most cases and deaths. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has created complex problems that require organizations to collaborate within and across the sector line. Social media data can provide insights into how nonprofits interact for the pandemic response from both social network and geographical perspectives. This study innovatively investigated the connection and interaction patterns among 74 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) nonprofits and three government agencies based on structural analyses and content analyses of their Twitter communications during the long-term global COVID-19 pandemic. The daily tweeting quantities of all nonprofits were generally consistent with the pandemic severity in the United States before July 2020 and remained stable afterward. Nonprofits' tweets can reflect their purposes of sharing information, building communities, and taking actions for disaster response. Government agencies played leadership roles in providing COVID-19 guidelines and information. Human services, International and Foreign Affairs, and Public and Societal Benefit nonprofits, especially American Red Cross played central roles in the nonprofit communication network. Possible explanations include: (1) Geographically, connections and interactions among nonprofits are more likely to happen within the same city or in neighboring states. (2) Both mission homophily and heterophily contribute to connections and interactions among nonprofits, depending on their subsectors. The findings not only help the public better understand how nonprofits are collaboratively fighting the pandemic, but also provide guidance for nonprofits to plan for better interactions and communications in future disaster response.
... To respond effectively with the appropriate strategies, practitioners should understand how crises are triggered online, how they escalate and how they gain credibility when they spill over and are reported in traditional media (Pang et al., 2014). Bearing in mind that fake news can be a generator of crises and affect company operations or stock prices (Brigida & Pratt, 2017), with far-reaching and negative repercussions if not eliminated or effectively recognised and minimised (Yap et al., 2018), understanding how social media responses can be used as a crisis communication tool in this context is crucially important for successful crisis management (Wukich, 2016). ...
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With the emergence of fake news in the era of Internet 4.0, communication and management researchers have studied how fake news impacts different areas of everyday life. Notwithstanding the detailed depiction of fake news in the context of political communication, the implications and dissemination mechanisms of business-related fake news in particular in the digital space have not been fully investigated. Furthermore, there are no studies that offer a comprehensive approach for companies, organisations and brands to counter fake news in the digital environment. The purpose of this research is to offer new, applicable and innovative solutions to handle business-related crisis challenges caused by fake news in the digital space, through the development and examination of countering concepts based on the application of situational crisis communication theory (SCCT). A research gap was identified after a comprehensive review of 326 journal and conference articles relating to the term 'fake news'. Two novel concepts, the pentagram graph and the dynamic crisis communication model (DCCM) algorithm, are proposed and examined. The pentagram graph matches possible solutions and actions to combat and counter fake news with various actors involved in the generation and dissemination of fake news online. The DCCM algorithm, grounded in SCCT, offers an algorithmic view of possible organisational actions to counter fake-news-related crisis challenges at different stages of their evolution. Moreover, the effectiveness and impact of different response strategies to counter business-related fake news online were evaluated through the analysis of stock price changes during a crisis challenge. The novelty and complexity of the topic required a sequential mixed-methods exploratory design, using both qualitative and quantitative data. Through sequential multi-level sampling, an initial sample of 510 global companies was reduced to the final sample of 108 suitable fake-news-related cases. Interviews with senior managers from the companies included in the final quantitative sample were utilised to examine the practical applicability of SCCT and the theoretical concepts designed within this study to counter fake news in the digital space. I VII VI This research offers a historical overview of the channels used to spread fake news, enabling a full understanding of how fake news has evolved with the development of new channels. A comprehensive typology of fake news was developed, taking into consideration the nature of the news item, level of facticity, intention to deceive and motivational factors. From a business perspective, the findings from the research confirm
... Yet, of course, digitized mobility management had been used already before COVID-19 in the fight against unfolding pandemics (Fisher & Monahan, 2008). For example, as Cinnamon et al. (2016, p. 262) Studies have also explored the role of social media in emergency and crisis response in general (Boersma et al., 2016;Wukich, 2015) and more specifically the possibilities of self-tracking and clinical monitoring derived from health apps on smartphones and other portable 'healthwear', such as tracking bracelets or smartwatches (Bauer & Olsén, 2009;Bushko, 2005;Klauser & Albrechtslund, 2014). ...
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This paper argues that at its very core, the policy response to a pandemic such as COVID‐19 is shaped by the search for the right balance between openness and closure, mobility and public safety. More specifically, drawing upon relevant social‐scientific literatures and examples relating to the fight against COVID‐19 in Switzerland, the paper highlights three broad and fundamentally intertwined spatial logics of control and restriction through which differing degrees and modalities of closure and openness are being articulated in the context of infectious disease. These refer to (1) border and access control; (2) the monitoring of people and objects on the move and (3) to the internal organization and monitoring of specific spatial enclaves. The three spatial logics of crisis management and control offer an exploratory framework, the paper argues, to study the functioning and implications of outbreak response both during and after the pandemic.
... Aggregated responses, which are then used to develop themes, can assist emergency managers and science agencies responsible for communicating with the public. By thematically analyzing and grouping major questions or points of concern, emergency managers' communication can be more effective in times of crisis 56 Through the combination of different OSNs and performing cross-platform analysis, we can potentially help science response and emergency management agencies to gain a more comprehensive understanding of people's concerns and public awareness during extreme events. For instance, misinformation or conspiracies can spread after natural hazards, but different kinds of misinformation may exist on different platforms. ...
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Online social networks (OSNs) have become a powerful tool to study collective human responses to extreme events such as earthquakes. Most previous research concentrated on a single platform and utilized users’ behaviors on a single platform to study people’s general responses. In this study, we explore the characteristics of people’s behaviors on different OSNs and conduct a cross-platform analysis of public responses to earthquakes. Our findings support the Uses and Gratification theory that users on Reddit and Twitter are engaging with platforms that they may feel best reflect their sense of self. Using the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes as our study cases, we collected 510,579 tweets and 45,770 Reddit posts (including 1437 submissions and 44,333 comments) to answer the following research questions: (1) What were the similarities and differences between public responses on Twitter and Reddit? (2) Considering the different mechanisms of Twitter and Reddit, what unique information of public responses can we learn from Reddit as compared with Twitter? By answering these research questions, we aim to bridge the gap of cross-platform public responses research towards natural hazards. Our study evinces that the users on the two different platforms have both different topics of interest and different sentiments towards the same earthquake, which indicates the necessity of investigating cross-platform OSNs to reveal a more comprehensive picture of people’s general public responses towards certain disasters. Our analysis also finds that r/conspiracy subreddit is one of the major venues where people discuss the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes on Reddit and different misinformation/conspiracies spread on Twitter and Reddit platforms (e.g., “Big one is coming” on Twitter and “Nuclear test” on Reddit).
... With the rapid growth in the userbase, social media platforms have been hosting event-specific web pages to increase awareness for disaster relief and recovery efforts [82]. The major challenge posed in using social media for disaster management is identifying trustworthy and reliable resources for rapid response to such events [78]. ...
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One of the major challenges faced by the current society is developing disaster management strategies to minimize the effects of catastrophic events. Disaster planning and strategy development phases of this urgency require larger amounts of cooperation among communities or individuals in society. Social networks have also been playing a crucial role in the establishment of efficient disaster management planning. This article proposes a hierarchical decision-making framework that would assist in analyzing two imperative information flow processes (innovation diffusion and opinion formation) in social networks under the consideration of community detection. The proposed framework was proven to capture the heterogeneity of individuals using cognitive behavior models and evaluate its impact on diffusion speed and opinion convergence. Moreover, the framework demonstrated the evolution of communities based on their inter-and intracommunication. The simulation results with real social network data suggest that the model can aid in establishing an efficient disaster management policy using social sensing and delivery.
... Disaster risk communication has undergone significant changes in recent years due to the advancement of communication technologies, especially social media platforms. How these technologies have changed the role and function of disaster risk communication throughout the disaster management cycle was investigated in many studies (Alexander, 2014;Gizikis et al., 2017;Hughes et al., 2014;Wukich, 2015). In line with these scientific inquiries, the present study set out to analyze Romanian emergency management inspectorates Facebook use for disaster risk communication. ...
... This precludes findings on other aspects regarding social media in crisis management that may be of interest to IS researchers. We are happy to refer readers to previously published review papers that might be of interest (e.g., Alexander, 2014;Houston et al., 2015;Reuter et al., 2020;Veil et al., 2011;Wukich, 2015). In addition, as we focused on learning processes facilitated by social media, our understanding is necessarily incomplete. ...
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Research on the role of social media in crisis management has led to a deeper understanding of their affordances. This research, however, is fragmented, with a primary focus on crisis response. We lack a clear conceptualization of the affordances that social media offer by learning from them to prepare strategically for crises. Based on a systematic review of 128 papers, we inductively build a framework of social media affordances for organizational learning in crisis management. We discuss their role and interplay in strategic crisis management, focusing on organizational crisis learning, and outline avenues for future research based on this foundation.
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In this paper we review data collected from an online, social media-administered survey developed to explore public use of social media during a series of natural disasters, predominantly in Australia and New Zealand, during January to March 2011. These data are then explored using examples taken from the experiences of those involved in administering the most widely-used community-driven Facebook page during these disasters, which focused on tropical cyclone Yasi ('Cyclone Yasi Update'). The survey was completed by 1146 respondents who had used social media in relation to the recent natural disasters. Data indicated that the public relied on a mix of formal and informal information sources, often using social media to re-post or re-tweet links from government websites felt to be of use to communities, thus acting as filters and amplifiers of 'official' information. This paper discusses how social media, specifically their core strengths of timely information exchange and promotion of connectedness, were able to act as sources of psychological first aid in the early stages of disaster and assist in supporting aspects of community resilience.
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Several emergency management researchers and practitioners have suggested that the use of social media can help build community disaster resilience. This article develops a strategic framework for the social aspects of disaster resilience-building based on the Australian National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. It then investigates the current and potential use of social media related to the strategic framework. The article concludes by discussing the possible implications for emergency managers of using social media within such a framework.
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Informal online communication channels are being utilized for official communications in disaster contexts. Channels such as networked microblogging enable public officials to broadcast messages as well as engage in direct communication exchange with individuals. Here the authors investigate online information exchange behaviors of a set of state and federal organizations during the Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill disaster. Using data from the popular microblogging service, Twitter, they analyze the roles individual organizations play in the dissemination of information to the general public online, and the conversational aspects of official posts. The authors discuss characteristics and features of the following networks including actor centrality and differential mixing, as well as how structural features may affect information exchange in disasters. This research provides insight into the use of networked communications during an event of heightened public concern, describes implications of conversational features, and suggests directions for future research.
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A key task in emergency management is the timely dissemination of information to decision makers across different scales of operations, particularly to individual citizens. Incidents over the past decade highlight communication gaps between government and constituents that have led to suboptimal outcomes. Social media can provide valuable tools to reduce those gaps. This article contributes to the existing literature on social media use by empirically demonstrating how and to what extent state-level emergency management agencies employ social media to increase public participation and promote behavioral changes intended to reduce household and community risk. Research to this point has empirically examined only response and recovery phases related to this process. This article addresses each phase of emergency management through the analysis of Twitter messages posted over a three-month period. Our research demonstrates that while most messages conformed to traditional one-to-many government communication tactics, a number of agencies employed interactive approaches including one-to-one and many-to-many strategies.
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The Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) is a multistage model that is based on findings from research on people's responses to environmental hazards and disasters. The PADM integrates the processing of information derived from social and environmental cues with messages that social sources transmit through communication channels to those at risk. The PADM identifies three critical predecision processes (reception, attention, and comprehension of warnings or exposure, attention, and interpretation of environmental/social cues)— that precede all further processing. The revised model identifies three core perceptions— threat perceptions, protective action perceptions, and stakeholder perceptions—that form the basis for decisions about how to respond to an imminent or long-term threat. The outcome of the protective action decision-making process, together with situational facilitators and impediments, produces a behavioral response. In addition to describing the revised model and the research on which it is based, this article describes three applications (development of risk communication programs, evacuation modeling, and adoption of long-term hazard adjustments) and identifies some of the research needed to address unresolved issues.
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Effective communication about severe weather requires that providers of weather information disseminate accurate and timely messages and that the intended recipients (i.e., the population at risk) receive and react to these messages. This article contributes to extant research on the second half of this equation by introducing a "real time" measure of public attention to severe weather risk communication based on the growing stream of data that individuals publish on social media platforms, in this case, Twitter. The authors develop a metric that tracks temporal fluctuations in tornado-related Twitter activity between 25 April 2012 and 11 November 2012 and assess the validity of the metric by systematically comparing fluctuations in Twitter activity to the issuance of tornado watches and warnings, which represent basic but important forms of communication designed to elicit, and therefore correlate with, public attention. The assessment finds that the measure demonstrates a high degree of convergent validity, suggesting that social media data can be used to advance our understanding of the relationship between risk communication, attention, and public reactions to severe weather.