Facebook and Twitter seem to be the quickest way organizations like FEMA can send and receive news during disasters. More and more people seem to have smartphones in this day and age, and therefore have access to internet and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter 24/7. There are even Facebook and Twitter applications on these smartphones that allow users to press a button on their phone screen that quickly directs them to Facebook or Twitter. There is never a dull moment or a day that someone with a smartphone goes without hearing the last updates, especially if that person is subscribed to a certain organization.
The best way to get people to receive urgent information quickly is to let them know where the best place is to find that information. Whether they need to “like” a certain Facebook page or “follow” a certain organization on Twitter, that information needs to be communicated to the public before a disaster strikes, so that when it does strike, they know where they need to turn to for the most updated information. As Rebecca Ford of The Hollywood Reporter says,
Cell phone networks can crash during an emergency, while social media is considered a more reliable form of communication.
She goes on to say that Twitter users learned of tremors seconds before feeling them on the East Coast. To learn more about this topic go to http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hurricane-irene-fema-urges-people-227765.
FEMA’s Facebook Page has important information that one might need to know when preparing for a disaster or if someone were to be a victim of a disaster. FEMA also has daily tweets that one could view to get updated information about disasters. Below is an image of what the official FEMA Twitter page looks like.
Facebook and Twitter are reinventing the way we receive news and information. For example, today when I was on Facebook I saw that Tony Larussa had retired. When I went to check it out on ESPN’s website they did not even have anything about his retirement up yet. That just shows how quickly news can spread on social networks compared to traditional news sources. Social networking sites are here to stay and it only makes sense that more traditional ways of spreading information catch up with the times.
In a disaster it is important to disperse accurate information quickly and effectively. Social Networking sites are perfect for this. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow organizations such as FEMA reach an audience that may not use more traditional forms of media and inform them on what to do in a disaster. Social Networking sites also allow organizations to continually update people on the situation in a more timely manner compared to more traditional news sources. One of the drawbacks of using social networking sites may be that misinformation may be spread amongst users. In the end I believe that all organizations will use Facebook or Twitter to reach their target audience and these tools can be used effectively by disaster organizations to disperse information in a timely manner.
After recently completing FEMA’s NIMS Public Information Systems training, I found it was very much in relation to how I have come to understand crisis and disaster communication through classroom learning. FEMA describes the Public Information mission for a crisis as,
get[ting] accurate, understandable information to the public in a timely manner so people can take action to save lives and minimize damage to property.
And that is a lot of what we are learning as a class in Crisis Communication. As a class, it is basically our mission to learn exactly how this mission is carried out, because one day it could be our job to do so.
I think the training was rather beneficial, because it covered more in-depth a few concepts we later went over during class:
- The Joint Information System (JIS) which basically makes sure that information regarding the crisis is accurate, organized, and easily accessible.
- The Joint Information Center (JIC) which is the main location of the JIS.
- The Public Information Officer (PIO) which is like a public relations advisor of sorts to the Incident Commander during a crisis.
It is also important that all areas of the Public Informations System can communicate clearly with each other, or be permeable, a concept which we learned in class.
Some additional information I learned during the FEMA training was that there are certain public information skills that are beneficial to have during the pre-crisis phase:
- Language translation
- Internet/web design
I never would have really though of these being beneficial to crisis communication until the Public Information Systems training.
I think it is rather safe to say that Public Information Systems training fits right in with what we are learning in Crisis Communication. The information compliments each other in ways that are beneficial to student learning, and the training reinforced many ideas we had already covered in class.
The FEMA public information systems training is a type of training that ties in perfectly with the University of Missouri’s Crisis Communication course. Thus far into the semester we have learned many common practices that FEMA’s training focuses on. Examples of these include the importance of establishing a common message, staying consistent , and communicating to the public messages of importance. FEMA’s training covers the information we have covered but at points takes us even deeper in understanding how to reach these goals.
One of the main means to reach these goals is through what FEMA calls a Joint Information System aka a JIS. As depicted below there are multiple individuals or organizations dealing with the same crisis or situation. While they may not be in the same location it is important that they are all communicating and remaining on the same page. Some carry on the role of a PIO, operating the JIC, or a spokesperson (all of which are also described in the graphic below). Through the constant communication with each other, the media, and the public they are able to send out a message that is consistent and factual. To confirm truth behind the message, PIOs are constantly following the media’s outputs to make sure what is being said is valid. Just as in Crisis Communication, a truthful and dependable message is the goal of those working in the midst of a crisis.
As previously mentioned, the JIS must send out a message to the public that is consistent and factual. Another component of the message is making sure what is said will not unnecessarily alarm the public. These goals are reached through similar goals we have learned about in Crisis Communication. In FEMA’s words, they are reached through gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating information. To gather a deeper understanding as to what occurs in each of these phases refer to the graphic below.
Lastly, FEMA also recapped the importance of planning ahead. In class we have learned that it is extremely important to prepare for a crisis because while crises may not be expected they are inevitable. With all of this information from FEMA public information systems in addition to what we have learned in class, it is easy to understand the importance of communication in a crisis or situation. But more importantly it is easy to understand the importance of how to communicate in a crisis or situation.