When there is an emergency, the option for many individuals is to call 911. However, during a severe storm, phone service cannot be relied on and people with mobile devices would turn to text messaging and social media to gain news updates. Public officials have realized the values of social media when there is a large scale emergency and they have fully embraced the power of Twitter in times of crisis when their constituents are unable to watch TV or listen to the radio due to power outage. Twitter has become a platform for emergency alert notification and authorities have learned to post accurate information for a semblance of control over chaos and confusion.
Integrating social media into mass notification systems
Mass notification systems are a collection of different methods that can be utilized for emergency communication from the traditional sirens to mass messaging through Twitter. In spite of the different platforms that can lead to redundancy, emergency alert notification is able to provide detailed and meaningful information that is critical to handling a crisis. During Hurricane Sandy, mayors and governors turned to Twitter to get the word out that there is an emergency and people have to make the necessary preparations. Afterwards, images and videos of the damages were posted over social media so that people are informed. Lessons have been learned in the past when ineffective communication has delayed the much needed response from the authorities.
Social media when it was first introduced to the general public was considered to be a trend that enhances communication but now it has become an integral part of emergency alert notification. Today, when the weather bureau announces a hurricane, people ensure that their phone batteries are fully charged knowing that if they lose power, they won’t get any news from TV or radio. Using their cell phones, Twitter becomes their last resource to know what is happening and whether they are facing any risks to their life and property. As more and more families lose power, the number of Tweets soared and multiplied. Since emergencies have become more frequent, governments have finally realized the importance of establishing effective mass notification systems to avoid past experiences that have hampered relief efforts.