S111 How Minorities Use Social Media During Weather Related Crises: Results of a U.S. National Weather Survey

Sunday, 22 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Michelle A. Dovil, NCAS, Washington, DC; and B. Mills, L. D. Williams, and T. Tyree

More than ten years ago millions of viewers watched the devastating images of thousands of people tread helplessly through chest high water in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Just a few years later, the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak hit the southern region of the United States with an astounding 87 tornadoes. Following these tragic events was Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2012) record-breaking snowfall, cold temperatures, extended drought, high heat, severe flooding, violent tornadoes, and massive hurricanes have all combined to reach the greatest number of multibillion-dollar weather disasters in the nation’s history. The imminent threats of natural hazards have become a major part of our daily lives. Consequently, immediate monitoring and warnings go into effect once a potential natural hazard is spotted to both prepare and to mitigate any forthcoming danger.

These warning messages can come from a variety of sources, such as the U.S. Weather Service, media outlets, government officials, friends, and relatives (West and Orr, 2007). However, as technology continues to increase, so, too, do the ways individuals obtain critical information. Although traditional outlets, such as television, radio and newspapers, are still commonly used, according to Tucker (2011) social media are the most recent tools in the area of public health and disaster preparedness, because government officials can use them to immediately disseminate much-needed information to the public. This is particularly important for minority populations, as they are typically known for not only using non-traditional media outlets, but also disregarding weather warnings. By utilizing a national weather survey, this study will ascertain which specific outlets are the most effective sources for delivering pertinent informational warnings and protective actions for African Americans and Latinos. It is important to understand how to successfully disseminate critical warnings to ensure these audiences not only receive, but also adhere to these important messages.

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