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‘Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response’

Weather forecasters predict a less active than normal 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, but it only takes one bad storm to cause immense destruction. To prepare for that possibility, one coastal community, Belmar, N.J., is now relying on social media to alert, interact and stay in touch with its residents.

Belmar realized the effectiveness of social media as an emergency communications channel during Hurricane Sandy, which battered the community of nearly 6,000 residents in October 2012. According to a new analysis in a new Frost & Sullivan report, ‘Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response’, the effective engagement of social media during the hurricane generated nearly $750,000 in donations and supplies for the community.

During Hurricane Sandy, social media filled the gaps when residents could not get through on other channels and allowed residents to engage with officials. Belmar, in particular, utilizes social media to warn and inform residents about both smaller and larger disruptive events such as, such as ice and snow storms, thunderstorms and downed power lines.

“Belmar’s experience proved beyond a doubt the value of social media when disasters threaten and strike,” said the author of the analysis, Frost & Sullivan Contact Centers Industry Analyst Brendan Read, who is a Belmar resident. “Belmar has also shown that social media can reach a large audience, beyond those who have Facebook or Twitter accounts, when the posts are published on websites.”

As with any technology, challenges in providing emergency communications with the public remain. Organizations often have limited budgets and social media relies on Internet access and power, both of which can be cut off when disasters hit. Belmar, along with many other stricken communities, lost power for many days. Nevertheless, the increasing ubiquity of wireless communications, made possible through portable towers fed by generators and generator-connected wireless device charging stations, has partially offset these issues.

“Belmar businesses and residents are now using emergency generators, while some apartment buildings have permanent standby generators to support charging stations,” noted Read. “As Belmar did during Sandy, it is ready again for when the next disaster looms.”

Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response is a Market Insight that is part of the Contact Centers & CRM Growth Partnership Service program. The analysis is a blend of interviews with local officials as well as drill downs through the Belmar.com site, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, backed by Read’s firsthand observations before and after Sandy struck.

For complimentary access to more information on this research, click here.

•Date: 10th June 2014 • US/World •Type: Article • Topic: Crisis communications

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