Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Emergency officials consider pros, cons of social media use

One challenge will be to distinguish official information from the swirl of online rumors.

Facebook

One challenge will be to distinguish official information from the swirl of online rumors.

Pinellas County Emergency Management spokesman Tom Iovino looked over the department's list of Twitter followers, delighted at the mix of 1,100 organizations, people and other characters keeping up with the county's emergency tweets.

"Friends of Strays, Indian Rocks EOC, the Weather Channel. … Hey, we even have a pizzeria following us," Iovino said. "And here's a bird."

Hey, it's a start. Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have been around for years now, but government emergency agencies' use of these sites is "still in the infancy stages," said Hillsborough County Emergency Management interim director Jeff Copeland. Navigating them as important tools for spreading information — as opposed to online socializing — is still somewhat of a puzzle.

"We're still trying to figure out the best way to use these sites," Copeland said. "We want to make sure we're delivering a consistent message, and make sure it's available to as many people as possible."

But how do emergency managers ensure that message doesn't get muddled with rumors, urban myths and other information that swirls among the very same social media sites they're using?

Most seem to follow the same policy: If it's not from an official source, and it's not something they would normally release in an official public alert, they won't repeat it.

"We're not going to tweet that Joe saw a tornado coming," Iovino said. "Our job is to evaluate the feeds that are coming in and send out the ones that are from the experts, like the National Weather Service."

The new National Hurricane Center Facebook page, which had just over 5,000 followers in the first four months since it was created, will post links only to its own website and won't allow others to post on its wall.

"It's just another tool in the toolbox," spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. "Perhaps with Facebook we'll be able to reach audiences we wouldn't normally reach."

It's also a good way to gauge public feedback, although emergency managers hope to avoid discerning fact from fiction, Iovino said. With so many voices flooding so many social networking platforms, myths and misinformation could be rampant and far too accessible.

In a way, though, that's nothing new.

"We dealt with that even before the Internet was popular," Iovino said. "In a disaster situation where we're trying to put out information, you'll always have that instance where people want to fill in the blanks. Social media is just a continuation of that."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Emergency officials consider pros, cons of social media use 05/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant — and still means — to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  2. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  3. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  5. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records