When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, Rep. Charlie Crist’s office needed a way to consistently get the most up to date information to its residents, so it turned to social media. During the week of Hurricane Irma, Crist (D-FL-13) tweeted 441 times, more than any other member of the House of Representatives.
The rest of the Florida delegation followed suit, with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Rubio, and Sen. Nelson also leading the way on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
With typical means of communication less reliable due to weather damage, Rep. Crist’s office found social media to provide a more consistent means of communication during a weather related emergency.
“Social media is a great tool to stay connected with constituents during emergency situations when folks may be evacuating and not in a place where they can access local media. It is rapid and accessible on mobile devices and provides access to links for further resources to get out the most information as possible in one place.”
Rep. Crist’s office used social media for two key objectives—to disseminate information in advance of the storm to help constituents prepare and to coordinate assistance after the storm has hit to help constituents recover. Here are tips on why social media should be a part of an elected official’s emergency response plan.
As a public figure and government official with access to the most up-to-date information regarding hurricane assistance, his office took it upon itself to act as a microphone for constituents.
“Our strategy was to disseminate as much information as possible to keep constituents up-to-date and prepared ahead of the storm,” Crist’s office said. “This meant keeping an eye on the local, state, and federal updates to share immediately as the situation evolved.”’
For Crist, much of this information came from Pinellas County Emergency Management, FEMA, and energy and electricity providers. Twitter provided a way to share these messages quickly and reach thousands of constituents at the click of a button.
While Crist’s office may not have always been the proper office to provide the necessary on the ground assistance, they were able to use Twitter to direct constituents to the right source.
“The people are our bosses, our offices are always here to help and we encourage folks to contact our office,” Crist’s office said. “If it’s not something where we are able to directly assist or have the answer to a question, we will work to get constituents in touch with the appropriate agencies to get the help they need.”
After the storm, Crist’s office was also able to use social media to follow up with constituents who reached out through tweets. The office was constantly monitoring its various accounts so it could keep up with anyone who reached out through those means.
Weather emergencies provide a unique circumstance where we can have advance notice of their impending effects. With social media, officials can keep in touch with their constituents at all phases of an emergency and quickly disseminate information and coordinate assistance.