Social media is not only a place which people visit to have fun or share thoughts, it can also be a powerful tool for disaster communication, researchers say.
“Social media should play a larger role in emergency preparedness,” said Bruno Takahashi, assistant professor of journalism at the Michigan State University. When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in 2013, thousands of people were killed because they did not know it was coming or did not know how to protect themselves.
Using the Philippines’ typhoon as a case study, Takahashi and his fellow researchers determined that more tweets and Facebook messaging might have made a difference. For this study, which was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, the researchers analysed more than 1,000 tweets that were sent around the time of the typhoon. “We need to think of social media not as an afterthought,” Takahashi added. “It needs to be integrated into emergency-preparedness plans”. “Social media helps people connect with others, lets them know there are others out there sharing the same problems.”
According to Takahashi, social media messages can spread faster than natural disasters, including earthquakes like the one in Nepal last month. “There was an instance in which people who had not felt an earthquake got a tweet about it, then felt it seconds later,” he said.