Earthquake changes emergency communication: Socia media is officially the new standard

So… apparently there was an earthquake in the Northeast of the United States yesterday. I didn’t notice it, because I had to give a talk to the incoming cohort of EMPA and MAIR students in one of the safest places on campus: The basement of the Geology building… imagine the irony. After that I went straight to another meeting and didn’t have time to check my emails, Twitter or Facebook news feeds in between meetings.

While a lot of people made fun of the earthquake on Twitter one interesting thing happened: all the major federal agencies involved in emergency response posted updates and recommendations on Twitter. It seemed that landlines and cellphone lines were overwhelmed with the additional volume of calls people were making to their loved ones and the lines broke down. Leaving people with the TV coverage to receive official updates only, but no access to tell anyone that they were ok. I noticed that DHS posted the following update:

http://twitter.com/#!/DHSJournal/status/106076003671097344

Social media has officially become the new standard for emergency communication to alert friends and families through these informal channels.

At the same time, USGS used this opportunity to encourage citizens to write in their earthquake updates:

http://twitter.com/#!/USGS/status/106102677661958144

The result of this crowdsourcing effort is the following USGS Internet Community Intensity Map:

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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