Government turns to social media for #Sandy alerts

Federal agencies are taking to social media to message alerts and updates related to Hurricane Sandy. In addition to broadcasting their own information, they repurpose and share information from other federal agencies.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate--one of the more active federal Twitter users, with more than 30,000 followers--was busy providing information about the storm via Twitter even before the first raindrops fell on Oct. 28.

Fugate has regularly tweeted emergency preparedness information from FEMA and forecast updates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He's also shared some less obvious Sandy-related information from agency partners, such as the Federal Communications Commission's tips for communicating during an emergency. He also suggested adults read to children during the storm to keep them calm, with a link to Library of Congress's


While many agencies use the hashtag #Sandy for storm-related tweets, Fugate has taken a more unconventional approach. He uses a variety of hashtags in this tweets, such as #Sandy #Frankenstorm and #Stormzilla to ensure updates receive maximum attention on trending topics.

Facebook is another popular channel for agencies to share information on Hurricane Sandy. A National Weather Service Facebook update, referencing information from the National Hurricane Center and posted at 8:06 pm EDT on Oct. 28 was shared 370 times and "liked" by 212 people. Meanwhile NWS outreach via Twitter has recieved far less traction, with only about 20 to 35 retweets per Sandy-related post.

The ease of sharing images on Facebook makes it a compelling tool for NOAA. So far NOAA has posted more than 20 satellite images and storm-tracking diagrams of Sandy, as well as videos to its Facebook page. It even updated its cover photo at the top of the page to a satellite image of the storm.

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