Twitter_WallpaperIn a recent speech at the National Hurricane Conference Robert Chandler noted that fewer and fewer people are turning to their newspaper, radio or television. And in fact, many don’t use those media sources at all anymore. Instead the primary source of information often is a tweet.

This is a course a challenge to emergency responders and managers as people may not be getting correct information from the proper authorities, what they are getting could well be wrong. This could place the “average person” at risk who decides that they need to go help the person in trouble.

That person might also evacuate to the wrong place. Or, conversely, heed a relative’s tweet to stay when he or she should leave. In Superstorm Sandy in the northeastern United States, Chandler said, 147 people drowned, many in areas that had been warned by emergency managers of a flooding threat.

Dr. Chandler noted that it is critical to have recorded messages mapped out, using multiple strategies, and targeted at specific demographics. He went on to say that the world is a much different place today that it was just a few years ago and that if social media is not part of what you’re doing that you need to include it.

Hurricane Sandy was the first ‘social media’ disaster in America. In Sandy, he said emergency dispatchers were receiving 300 inbound telephone calls and 100 inbound tweets every minute. Tweets became cries for help from people in trouble.

In a crisis, Chandler noted that reading skills drop as much as four grade levels. Messages have to be incredibly simple without technical terms, abbreviations or jargon. And due to the deluge of emails, many people often delete several at a time without opening them. And people will read an email or press release for the first 27 seconds or 27 words.