Emergency Managers and Social Media: A Case Study of Superstorm Sandy

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Christopher M. Zarzar, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC; and H. B. Lussenden

Handout (375.0 kB)

The use of social media in emergency management is increasing, in large part because of the speed with which many people can be reached. Yet, to date, there has not been much research on the extent of its use or effectiveness. As a first step in understanding its importance, we examined the use of Facebook and Twitter to determine the communication between emergency managers and the general public during the evolution of Superstorm Sandy. This provided information about how many people used social media during the event, what information was most important to the users, and if Sandy's changing track forecasts over time influenced social media activity. These factors were examined in three separate regions that were affected by Superstorm Sandy: the Mid-Atlantic area (Maryland and Delaware), the Tri-State area (New Jersey and New York) and the New England area (Rhode Island and Massachusetts). Our data shows that as landfall drew closer and official State of Emergency declarations were made, social media activity increased significantly. In addition, the pieces of information that were most valued by social media users tended to be about damage already experienced, information on recovery and relief, and general warnings and guidelines for returning back to normal. Analyzing the social media outlets of emergency management operations in conjunction with the general public will give insight as to the communication and information needs present during high-impact events like Sandy.