What to Do When Social Media Slows Down

On November 28, 2011, in Social Media, by with Altus Emergency Management

What will one do to keep up with watches and warnings when technology is slow to respond?

The graphic below displays a Twitter feed based on a significant weather advisory issued recently in the Norman, Oklahoma area. This shows the time lag in which a weather product was retweeted by a number of Twitter accounts. At the bottom of the picture, one will observe the Weather Bot‘s initial advisory at 12:15 p.m.

Following the initial tweet, the WX5EM Twitter account transmitted the information to its stream at 12:19 p.m., a delay of four minutes. Two media accounts and one emergency management account then transmitted the same information to their streams at 12:23 p.m.

In this case, an eight minute delay occurred, depending on which stream one was following. “Back in the day”, eight minutes was the best one could expect for a tornado warning. Today, that time has increased significantly due to better technology, the Skywarn program, and social media. However, 17 minutes is reduced to 9 minutes when there are delays in the Twitter stream. One could build a case that there is little progress.

However, emergency managers have, for years, advised in having more than only one stream of information. (I’ve previously written on AWARE about how EMs should plan for the limitations of social media.) Apart from a siren, one emergency management program identified over 7 ways to get information, including conventional television, radio, internet, NOAA All-hazards radio, email, text message, and amateur radio.

Some questions to consider:

  • Do you have three ways to get your warning? What are they?
  • How do you integrate together information from social media and other sources?
  • When the power goes out, do you have three ways to get your warning? Have you tested them recently?
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