As Hurricane Matthew blasted across Haiti and headed north for the United States, communicators and public affairs officers got busy tweeting warnings and tips.
Few, however, were busier than the state, local and federal agencies whose social media teams pulled long shifts with little sleep.
Officials from the city of Savannah, Georgia, tweeted about mandatory evacuations. TheNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned about storm surges. The Federal Emergency Management Agency tirelessly retweeted safety information and offered its own warnings and tips.
“There’s no doubt that the work of folks at NOAA and the folks at FEMA and local and state as well saved lives,” says Mike Kruger, director of digital engagement for the U.S. Commerce Department, which includes NOAA and the National Weather Service.
In recent years, the communications landscape has changed. Social media—Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Periscope, among others—have emerged as the go-to means of pushing out news. Similarly, mobile is essential when trying to inform people scurrying to cover windows in plywood or rush their kids to the car.