be better integrated with a user’s existing social networking tools (so that a different, unfamiliar tool need not be used in a disaster) and leveraging users’ existing social networks (e.g., also alerting, where appropriate, one’s friends or family). Such tools would reach people more effectively, provide them with more targeted information, provide emergency managers with the ability to gather and aggregate information that is relevant to the communities that they serve, and open up opportunities for the public to be more involved with their communities and government.
During the presentations and in the discussion following the panel presentations, a number of observations drew on recent experiences with using social media and other communications tools:
Integrated systems that can easily span traditional and new communications systems will be needed to maximize the reach of alerts and warnings. For example, although cellular technology is widely used, it reaches neither everyone nor everywhere.
The available technologies for delivering alerts and warnings will change over time. Emergency managers will need to adapt when users shift to new tools.
Although social media play a growing role in disaster and crisis communications, they are not yet primary or major sources of information during a disaster; instead they serve as emerging tools that may play an increasingly important role in the future.6
Messages that come from local entities are generally viewed as more credible than those coming from national sources. This suggests that although CMAS messages will be routed through a national gateway, it will be useful to include the responsible local agency as part of the message.
Trust and credibility are affected by timing. If a CMAS alert is one of the first pieces of information received, its credibility will be higher.
Alerts and warnings have to be actionable and should include context—for example, why one should take this particular action.
Those receiving a message will first try to verify the information. Additional information sources need to be provided. If people do not
Studies following the San Diego wildfires found that only 0.2 percent of the population received their first evacuation notification through the Internet, and 4.9 percent subsequently used the Internet for follow-on information. See John Sorensen, Barbara Vogt Sorensen, Allen Smith, and Zachary Williams. Results of an Investigation of the Effectiveness of Using Reverse Telephone Emergency Warning Systems in October 2007 San Diego Wildfires. ORNL/TM-2009/1254. Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Oak Ridge, Tenn.