Make Your Social Media Accounts Hurricane-Ready
If you live in hurricane territory, you get reminders this time every year, telling you to be sure you have an emergency kit with water, nonperishables, batteries and first aid supplies. If you’re smart and organized, you follow this advice, like yesterday. Otherwise, you’re out there with the rest of us when the “cone of uncertainty” lands on our city, clearing out supermarket and hardware store shelves and generally freaking out.
I’m not going to nag you about that.
Of course, emergency supplies are crucial (OK, a brief nag — review this list from the Red Cross if you need some help). But hurricane preparedness isn’t just about bottled water and batteries. What you need is a digital emergency kit.
Social media can bring you crucial information and help you update others about your welfare if a hurricane hits. Prepare online now to give yourself easy access to these useful sites before, during and after a storm.
The National Hurricane Center‘s Facebook page is a hub of preparation information that includes links to YouTube videos in English and Spanish. When a storm is active, the center also posts regular satellite views, radar and maps of the projected path.
When the Facebook page started last year, it had about 5,000 fans, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Interest exploded when Hurricane Irene tracked up the East Coast in August, giving the Facebook page 68,000 “likes” during that time period. Now, following Tropical Storm Beryl, its total likes approach 133,000.
The Twitter account for Atlantic storms, @NHC_Atlantic, has reached 50,000 followers and is great to scan for advisories and forecasts. It also operates @NHC_Pacific, though with far fewer followers.
Another must-follow for preparation tips and disaster assistance is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Pick a platform — there’s a mobile site, blog, Facebook and YouTube. On Twitter, you can follow @FEMA for more general information and @Readydotgov for extensive preparedness help. Even FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate answers questions and gives advice at @CraigatFEMA.
- Build short contact lists on Google Plus or Facebook of people you will want to alert if a storm strikes your community.
- Download apps for quick help. The American Red Cross offers a free “shelter finder” app that lists locations of available shelters. FEMA has an app with disaster safety tips, interactive lists and a map with shelters and disaster recovery centers.
- Visit your county’s web site to see if they provide updates online. Many in Florida do. Broward County residents benefit from an especially thorough one, with an online guide, e-mail and text updates, and emergency management tweets from @ReadyBroward.
- Bookmark your local media outlets. They’ll get much more specific about how a storm affects your community than the national sites will.
Tracking the Storm
You’ll want to know when the storm is coming and what path it is taking, and Twitter, Facebook and apps can help.
- Many apps are free. Some send you push notifications and some have sound, even if your phone is turned off.
- The National Hurricane Center sites fall under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which also maintains the useful @NOAA and @usNWSgov (National Weather Service). While only the NHC sites are hurricane-specific, you can bet if a storm comes, you will find plenty of information at any of those places.
- TV standard The Weather Channel is active socially, with more than 1 million “likes” on Facebook and almost 277,000 Twitter followers. Meteorologist Jim Cantore (@JimCantore) racks up another 111,000 followers.
- Find your favorite local meteorologist — many have Twitter accounts. Consider following a traffic reporter as well in case you will be on the road.
- Hashtags help on Twitter. Popular ones are #hurricane or #wx (sometimes with the state abbreviation, such as #flwx) or a hashtag with the storm’s name. You can look at what’s trending on Twitter for ideas.
Not only do the FEMA and Red Cross links help with preparedness, but they also can assist in disaster recovery. To get the word out to others that you are OK, register yourself after disaster strikes on the Red Cross “Safe and Well” listing.
But don’t forget old-school methods, too.
Wireless networks could get overwhelmed with everyone posting their statuses. Cell towers can get damaged. Batteries drain.
Try texting to preserve battery life, calling a point person who lives outside of the area with updates (sometimes it is easier to call out of the area than within it), and using a good, old-fashioned battery-powered radio for updates instead of your phone. If you have a landline, you can plug a corded phone into the jack if the power goes out because they may work when cordless ones do not.
No matter how high or low tech you go, be safe this season.