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Assessment of Social Media Usage During Severe Weather Events and the Development of a Twitter-Based Model for Improved Communication of Storm-Related Information

John F. Edwards (PI), Somya Mohanty, Patrick Fitzpatrick

Twitter messages were found to be an important source of communication during weather-related emergencies. Despite warnings to take shelter or evacuate from a potential disaster site, many people remain in place and share messages and photographs of a given disaster using social media platforms such as Twitter. During a number of recent weather-related emergencies, thousands of Twitter users sent messages from locations under notice for mandatory evacuation. These messages can provide emergency managers with exact-location images and messages chronicling the effects of a natural disaster. The data examined for this study comprise all geo-coded Twitter posts sent from a specified catchment area during Hurricane Sandy that devastated the coastal states of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut in late 2012. A system was developed whereby emergency managers could access weather-related data in real time, often hours before first responders can safely enter the disaster zone. The accompanying lat/lon metadata allowed for the exact location of an image or message to be geographically pinpointed and verified. These time-critical data can help emergency managers better plan their relief and rescue efforts, and by doing so, save lives. This research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the Coastal Storms Awareness Program managed by the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Sea Grant Consortium.

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