It’s been an eventful few weeks in my neck of the woods. Let’s recap:
1.) Aug. 19: Thousands of motorcycle riders paid tribute to 9/11 with a massive ride through Northern Virginia, including Fairfax Co., causing major communications needs for commuters.
2.) Aug. 23: A once-in-a-lifetime earthquake strikes and rattles Virginia.
3.) Aug. 25-29: Hurricane Irene.
4.) Sept. 8-9: Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump 12-15 inches of rain in Fairfax creating flash floods, washed out roads, destroyed bridges and evacuated (then flooded) communities.
Through all of these examples, we relied heavily on social media to engage our public on these key events happening in our community. Communicating during emergencies (or big incidents like a motorcycle ride) was the primary reason/justification for embarking down the social media road in 2008. We’ve remained true to our purpose and mission. Hundreds of combined photos, tweets, blog posts, comments, replies and listening to our community yielded positive results as we successfully communicated during all of these incidents.
We had already identified a need for a new way to share emergency info rather than simply updating our .gov website. Twenty minutes after our new Emergency Information Blog was approved at a key committee meeting, the room I was in with my fellow committee members shook due to the earthquake.
Guess we needed that blog a day earlier!
We decided with Hurricane Irene on our doorstep to launch the new blog earlier than we planned, which was perfectly fine and, in hindsight, the right move. We needed it as our Joint Information Center team worked multiple 12-hour shifts. The blog became our central hub to communicate while our other social platforms worked with it very well.
I’ve published two metrics reports to share our experiences through raw numbers for the hurricane and flood. I invite you to review the numbers and, for those who may still have some doubts about this social media thing, see how powerful it is to publish information on platforms people already use and in ways people are familiar with such as blogs.
It’s one thing to use social media tools, it’s another to take a step back after a major incident and digest what’s happened online through quantitative and qualitative means.