When a natural disaster falls on a holiday weekend, sharing critical information to the public can be particularly challenging. Officials are faced with reaching not just residents who are already tapped into the local media outlets, but also with out-of-state visitors who may not be aware of local resources.
All eyes are on North and South Carolina right now as Tropical Storm Arthur makes its way up the Atlantic coast on one of the biggest beach holiday weekends of the year. The storm is predicted to reach NC’s Outer Banks and become a hurricane on July 4th. As the storm strengthens, residents and visitors are keeping a close eye on the weather and social media.
Nancy Janitz, 60, of Jacksonville, North Carolina, said she was ready, thanks to technology. “I have my NOAA radio, and I keep tabs on Twitter and Facebook for updates,” she said. “I’m as prepared as I can possibly be.”
Savvy emergency personnel across the country have embraced social media as an excellent tool to communicate crucial information to a wide audience quickly. Twitter, in particular, offers the advantage of allowing for communication during the power outages that go hand in hand with natural disasters. When the landslide devastated Oso, WA in March, officials in Snohomish County were able to use Twitter and Facebook to coordinate personnel and provide the public with accurate, up-to-date information faster than traditional media would allow.
Our hope is that Arthur spins out into the ocean and leaves our friends in the Town of Duck and and elsewhere on the coast safe and dry, but if the forecast becomes reality, social media will certainly play a crucial role in keeping everyone safe.