It’s National Preparedness Month, and according to the National Weather Service, one way to be prepared is by using Facebook and Twitter.
Chance Hayes is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist in Wichita, and he says their office is using Social Media as a major tool for distributing emergency alerts and information.
“The majority of folks now days – I think it’s close to 60% – have a smart phone and if we can send a tweet or a Facebook status update, the banner will pop-up on their phone and it will have information for them. Then we hope they tune into their local radio station to get further details to help them keep safe. We’re seeing the need and we’re moving into that direction.”
While not all Weather Service offices in the nation are using Social Media to its fullest potential, he says in Kansas they have to use it because some of their storm reports come from platforms like Twitter, where the average Joe is tweeting using hashtags of what’s happening right in front of them.
“Pound (#) KSWX for Kansas Weather. We’re monitoring this hashtag very closely. If somebody is out on the road and they see a tree lying across the road due to the winds, water over the roadways or a tornado, they have the ability to tweet the information out utilizing that hashtag… We can take the information, share it with our partners – primarily the media, then it gets disseminated to the masses.”
Hayes says in the past, generally information like this would never have been reported due to the lack of communication back to the National Weather Service from the public.
Overall, Hayes believes getting emergency information out to as many people is the goal, be it the classic methods or with the modern Social Media tools.