Social Media, the Government and disasters

For the second time this year social media and diasters have worked well together. First Fargo North Dakota got out the message on twitter, fliker and webcams. People showed up not because of the news but IM and tweets.

Now swine flu has been a topic on Twitter. CDCEmergency and others have posted links to news. As people have responded it looks like CDC has been updating their webpage to meet people’s needs. Why? How to meet peoples needs is not a high school nor colledge course. It is an ongoing lesson that changes as technology changes.

Here on GovLoop two seperate blogs where created on swine flu. Even though the govenment can not solve this problem it is the focal point of information and aide. This brings us back to lessons in using social media not only to connect people but to both figure out what information people need and how to serve it up.

Twitter, web pages, blogs and pod casts seem best. Twitter for quick information and direction. Blogs for longer discussions, pod casts so people can take the information with them, web pages to bring it all together.

How good a jod do you think is being done?

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Allen Sheaprd


Thank you. I really like your second post. For it has happened. Multiple pictures and reports are good but the spector of bad reports, false reports and malice is there. NOAA has people who are trained weather spotters to be the eyes and ears of early warning system and do live reports long before an official can drive to the area.

Social web 2.0 it goes much deeper. The government can get feedback. Like in Yesterdays white house briefing they did a Q&A for reporters – but what about the rel customer – the public? There are several myths and lies to be fixed. 1) Antibiotics will not help cure a virus. 2) Declaration of public health emergency is protocol and not a reason to hide in the bunker. 3) Wearing of masks is still unproven. A virus is one of the smallest particles.

The privacy isses are mind boggling. Not just in public figures having to stay away from private comments but those comments can come back to haunt. One can publishing what was a good position at the time only to have it used against badly in a future campaign.

As for citizens – if one is publishing live reprorts from the field then you know they are not home. Scary?

Still the good out weighs the bad – particualy if done right. It can save lives and speed aide.

Last point – crowed sourcing. People should be prepared to go a few days to a few weeks without aide. Katrina was huge. A pandemic can be much larger and since all are suffering, aide may not arrive.


I think it is also important to remember that back in 2006 when Bush was President, the “pandemic flu buzz” was the Avian (bird) flu. At that time, the Federal government had a website up all about the Avian Flu, and people were blogging about it, or reading news stories online as well. The only difference now is that the “pandemic flu buzz” is the Swine Flu, and again there’s the government’s CDC web page; and now that social media has taken off — it’s being mentioned via Twitter, and on a grander scale via the new popular/hip/new social media outlets that have sprung up since 2006.

Allen Sheaprd

Blogs are public medium so the government and people get to benifit. It would be bad if people did not get recognized for their work. Also, other countries benefit from the public posts.
If the government learns this much now, think of how much they could learn by talking to people directly?

You are right. It was bird flu and still it. Most of the work has been done on bird flu. Bird flu continues to move like a bad weed from country to country. Swine flu is showing how quick a virus can move.

It is also helping develop twitter and other blogs. One site for FluTrackers has tripled their memory to help with traffic.

This has been a good shake down.