The Power of Social in the Flood Community

Agency Readiness and Awareness

The key to a successful emergency management flood response is having the ability to collect readiness information from reputable partners, subject matter experts, and the media. This can be done through the development of a designated social media account and feed. Emergency managers can follow other emergency management and government accounts to be aware of what partner agencies may be doing before an incoming flood event. Agencies such as the National Weather Service (NWS) and United States Geologic Survey (USGS) share weather forecasts, graphics, watches, warnings, and up-to-date scientific info on natural hazards. While these accounts focus on public information for safety, you can also find many valuable data accounts to assess items like rain gauge amounts, rainfall rates, and storm damage reports. Building a solid awareness is key to leaning forward before an emergency or disaster. Below are some helpful accounts to start with:

  1. NWS: An account that represents the National Weather Service as an entirety on a country level: https://twitter.com/NWS. Also be sure to follow your local office for specific forecasts and warnings for your jurisdiction. There are also quite a few regional specialized accounts, such as the Storm Prediction Center (https://twitter.com/NWSSPC) and the NWS River Forecast Center (https://twitter.com/NWSMARFC).
  2. USGS: There are several accounts that specialize in certain geologic hazards (earthquake/volcano info). USGS also is very active in flood monitoring. Check out USGS Water Resources (https://twitter.com/USGS_Water) and USGS StreamStats (https://twitter.com/USGSStreamStats). Lastly, Texas has a bot feed that automatically tweets precipitation stations (https://twitter.com/USGS_TexasRain).
  3. Local Media: Having a beat on local stories is essential. Follow all media stations and consider following newspapers as well. In the past, I have learned about flood complaints from media articles and interviews before I ever had the resident call my office to report a flood issue.

Resident Preparedness and Response Needs

Let’s face it — sharing experiences via social media is here to stay. People communicate with each other more than ever this way, so it is expected to find a majority of storm reports, resident needs, and perception of disaster on these platforms. Utilizing social networks can help an emergency manager understand the flood impact outside of the office. With proper networks and tactics, EMs can find real-time flooding along rivers, lakes, dams, and roadways which can prompt emergency decisions such as closures, evacuations, or the need of additional flood recovery resources (muck and gut teams).

Learning From Others

As emergency management professionals in a challenging field that is constantly evolving and changing, having a learning attitude is essential. While flooding is a rising threat in the United States (especially due to climate change), not every emergency manager has experienced a significant flood response. Social networks allow emergency managers to connect with others to learn about incident lessons learned. Many EM professionals are passionate and excited to share their experiences on social platforms. This enthusiasm allows EMs to take impacts, mistakes, and lessons learned back to their own jurisdiction to enhance preparedness, planning, and continuity for a local flood response. While tuning into large flood disasters on Twitter, EMs can learn key info about critical facility failure, public information, notification wording, evacuation processes, damage assessment, and other tripping points. This is valuable. It allows emergency managers to think through some of the common issues BEFORE they are faced with those same issues during their own local response.

Summary

While social media may seem like a time drain, it is worth developing a professional platform to monitor and share information. Emergency managers don’t have to be in the PIO role to take full advantage of social platforms, either. By creating a timeline, list, or platform dedicated to work-related accounts such as agencies, subject matter experts, and scientific data feeds — the emergency manager is mentally ready to lean forward and make decisions well before the storm or community impacts arise.

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Ashley Morris

Ashley Morris

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CEM | MD Emergency Management | Preparedness & Alerts & Plans | IMT | Social Media | VOST | SVI | Weather Forecasting | Geoscientist | GIS | ♥️🚒 #EMGTwitter