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Social Media As An Important Part Of Disaster Response Prep

In the Houston TranStar building, emergency management officials for the southeast Texas region test how these departments collaborate on various social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.


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Harris County Judge Ed Emmett 


At hurricane scenario was presented to agencies taking part in the exercise at Houston TranStar. Ten years ago, Facebook was about the only effective tool in providing critical information on social media when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

Parisa Safarzadeh is the digital media manager with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. She says now, Twitter, smart phones and other social media tools have helped improve disaster response and notification.

“The traditional media aspect is obviously very imprtant, but we found that our community are online. And so, if there’s a real-time crises, our best feedback is when we go online, put it out real-time and we get that connection immediately with the public,” Safarzadeh said.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says those in the emergency management business understand that social media is something they will be using to release important information to more people.

“People my age are still going to be watching television and listening to the radio for their information. Some people in my family don’t even have a television. This exercise is designed to close that gap,” Emmett says. 

The social media disaster exercise involved more than a dozen county departments, the National Weather Service, the Texas Department of Transportation and media outlets.

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