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Tips: Best Practices for Using Social Media During Natural Disasters


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Social media is typically the most immediate way to reach large numbers of constituents at one time — Public Information Officers (PIOs) and emergency managers can post messages from the field as the situation unfolds, or direct staff at the emergency operations center (EOC) to quickly send out messages via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other available platforms.

Use these tips to improve on or develop your locality’s social media communications program during a disaster event.

Begin emergency posts with IMPORTANT MESSAGE.

  • This catches the public’s attention and differentiates emergency messages from everyday posts on social media.

End social media messages with PLEASE SHARE.

  • Give the public a call to action and allow them to be part of the discussion by encouraging them to spread the message themselves.

Create a hashtag associated with your agency.

  • Create a generic hashtag and encourage followers to tag any post related to weather — whether it’s about a sunny day or a tornado. Monitor the hashtag for information about the event — from where a tornado touched down to impassable roads and injured residents.

Use a social media management service that allows you to post to all accounts at one time.

  • Consider using a social media management service that allows you to post messages on all of your social media accounts at once.

Get the message out on social media ASAP.

  • Create the image that you have the situation under control by sending an update immediately.
  • Get the initial message posted and send out more information as it unfolds, don’t wait for every detail.
  • Direct people to where they can find additional information later on in the initial message.

Pre-designate a single person to monitor social media.

  • Assign at least one person at all times to monitor social media for false rumors and for information that can improve your response, such as posts about road closures, tornado sightings or requests for help.
  • If short-staffed, consider recruiting volunteers from local colleges and universities, or even high schools, with journalism programs or media clubs to help monitor.

Use #rumorstop to correct false information.

  • When you see false information spreading on social media, post the correct information as soon as possible using #rumorstop. 
  • If using Twitter or Facebook, reply to false posts with the correct information and #rumorstop. 

Create and monitor “friend lists” on your Facebook page.

  • Before a disaster, create friend lists for different stakeholders, such as a media friend list, a local government friend list and a public safety friend list.
  • During an emergency, monitor the lists for new information and to ensure all messages are aligned.

Integrate your social media posts onto your website homepage.

  • Create a live-stream of your Twitter and Facebook posts on your organization’s homepage to increase awareness during an event.

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