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Social Media Should Play Greater Role in Disaster Communication

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An indication of the proliferation of social media.

A Michigan State University researcher suggests social media could be helpful to governments during disaster situations.

Credit: Forbes

Social media could potentially be a very helpful communications tool for governments during disaster situations, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) researcher who studies the issue.

MSU professor Bruno Takahashi and fellow researchers used Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed the Philippines in 2013 and killed thousands of people, as a case study. They say many individuals and some journalists were using Twitter to spread information before the typhoon made landfall, but the government was not. The researchers analyzed more than 1,000 tweets sent around the time of the typhoon, and they note Tacloban City provided access to Facebook so people could let loved ones know they were all right. Governments coordinated relief after the storm hit, but Takahashi's team believes they could be more proactive by using social media.

The researchers say social media messages can spread faster than natural disasters, noting people have received tweets about an earthquake and then felt it seconds later. "[Social media] needs to be integrated into emergency-preparedness plans," Takahashi says.

From Michigan State University Newsroom
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