The National Preparedness Community


Greetings Community Members!

This week, we invited Claire Thomas, Community Preparedness Officer for FEMA Region II to share some information on how everyone – from emergency management personnel to community organizers and private citizens –  can use social media to increase preparedness awareness and for disaster mitigation. She’ll cover great points on how social media has been used in the past for emergency management as well as deliver best practices for use as well as resources for tracking the reach of your efforts.

Why use social media for emergency management?
Social media gives you the ability to build community resilience through prevention, mitigation, and preparedness efforts by the promotion of government participation and community interaction as in real time. Ultimately it helps save lives through rapid and real time communication. FEMA utilized Twitter and Facebook to much success during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Here are some examples of how we were able to do so:

Before Sandy:

  • Emergency evacuation route information
  • Evacuation orders
  • Regular hurricane updates
  • Promoting personal preparedness (stock up on supplies, food, water in advance)
  • Tracking of storm


During and After the Storm:

  • Emergency shelter information
  • Finding missing people, reuniting people
  • Food, water distribution details
  • Where to receive medical attention
  • What areas to stay away from
  • Dispelling rumors
  • All Mayor Bloomberg’s press conferences were posted on Youtube
  • Press conferences were live-tweeted by @nycmayorsoffice
  • Summary of press conferences posted to Facebook
  • Spanish-language tweets
  • FEMA had web page solely dedicated to Hurricane Sandy rumor control
  • FEMA tweets to correct misinformation via #Sandy RUMOR CONTROL

Before I turn this over to Claire I want to ask the community to share examples of how you used social media in an emergency situation. Did you provide updates, information or resources during a crisis? Where you able to assist people? If so, how? Have you used social media to advocate for preparedness? If so, what tactics did you use? Let us know how you utilized social media to spread the message!


In Region II, we have spent the past few months building up our Twitter page and developing daily preparedness tips for our followers. During this time, we have developed a few best practices for social media messaging that we would like to share with you!·      Be relevant This means knowing your audience and posting content that is relevant to them. Make sure you post daily to stay in people’s newsfeed and to show you are active on social media. Be sure to use language that is friendly and engaging, not formal. Make the information fun and engaging!·      Follow up with a link When you’re using Twitter, 140 characters is short, so be sure to add links to provide more info. Research shows that tweets that include links are 86% more likely to be retweeted, which means that more people getting the information you post. You can track how many people click on your links using free tools like Hootsuite, Google Analytics, or TweetReach.

·      Add visuals Tweets with images are twice as likely to be re-tweeted. You can even ask your followers to tweets pictures back to you as a “Twitter Challenge”. Linking videos to your tweets or Facebook posts is a great way to draw people in to your content. If you’re looking for content, FEMA has great videos on YouTube about how to prepare for all hazards.

·      Timing is everything If you are a regular social media user, think about when you check Twitter. It is usually during your commute, after lunch, and when you are relaxing after work. Social media scientist Dan Zarrella also found in one of his Twitter experiments that click-through rates were higher on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You don’t have to physically tweet during these time, you can automate the posting of your tweets by “scheduling” tweets using free platforms like Hootsuite.

·      Evaluate your progress It is important to see how far your social media message is traveling. Who and how are you reaching people, and are there ways you can improve? HootSuite, Tweetdeck, Monitter, Social Mention, Google Analytics, Topsy and Trendsmap are all sites that allow monitoring and managing social media sites.

For more tips on social media best practices for Twitter, Facebook and others, check out IS-42: Social Media in Emergency Management.