Red Tape: Attitudes and Issues Related to Use of Social Media by U.S. County-Level Emergency Managers

Linda Plotnick, Starr Roxanne Hiltz, Jane A. Kushma, Andrea Tapia

ABSTRACT

Social media are ubiquitous in modern society.  Among their uses are to provide real-time information during crisis.  One might expect that emergency management agencies in the U.S. make use of social media extensively to disseminate and collect crisis information as that is where the information flows most freely and quickly; yet, these agencies are not fully exploiting the capabilities of social media.  A survey of 241 U.S. emergency managers at the county level shows that only about half of these agencies use social media in any way as of 2014.  Most do not have any formal policies to guide their use.  Of those that do have formal policies, about one quarter actually forbid the use of social media.  This study describes the barriers that impede use of social media by these emergency managers, and the ways in which they are currently used, and recommends steps to improve this use.

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