Content, Accessibility, and Dissemination of Disaster Information via Social Media During the 2016 Louisiana Floods

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Abstract

Context:

Social media is becoming increasingly integrated into disaster response communication strategies of public health and emergency response agencies.

Objective:

We sought to assess the content, accessibility, and dissemination of social media communications made by government agencies during a disaster response.

Design:

A cross-sectional analysis of social media posts made by federal, state, and local government, public health and emergency management agencies before, during, and after the 2016 Louisiana floods was conducted to determine their content, accessibility, and dissemination by level of government and time relative to disaster onset.

Setting:

Facebook and/or Twitter posts made by public agencies involved in the response to the 2016 Louisiana Flooding events (FEMA Disaster Declaration [DR-4277]) published between August 4 and September 16, 2016, publicly available online between February 21 and March 31, 2017, were included in the analysis.

Main Outcome Measure:

Content: The text of each post was assessed to determine whether it contained information on provision of situational awareness; addressing misconception, actionable requests; mental, behavioral, and emotional support; and/or recovery and rebuilding resources. Accessibility: A Flesh-Kincaid grade level of each post was calculated, and information on post language, originality, hyperlinks, visuals, videos, or hash tag was recorded. Dissemination: The average number of reacts/likes, shares/retweets, and comments per post was calculated.

Results:

Most posts contained information related to situational awareness and recovery resources. There was an increase in messages during the first week of the disaster at all levels. Few posts were made in languages other than English. Compared with state and federal posts, local Facebook posts averaged fewer reacts, comments, and shares throughout the analysis period.

Conclusions:

Government agencies may maximize the use of social media platforms for disaster communications by establishing their social media network in advance of a disaster and by applying established guidelines on disaster social media use.

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