Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cities showcase collaboration during Irma: Social media and mutual aid

A crisis can often bring people together in ways we don't expect. The past week with Irma's progress has illustrated in several ways how crises bring out the collaborative spirit in South Carolina cities.

There are so many great examples of leaders of South Carolina cities and towns taking full advantage of the collaborative nature of social media as they anticipated impact from Irma. Elected officials, police chiefs, EMD officials and others made frequent use of Facebook Live and posted often with safety updates and photos/videos of affected areas.

Facebook followers could adjust their personal settings to get notifications when a Facebook Live event was happening helping hundreds of people stay on top of the ever-changing forecast.

Coastal cities leverage social media
Take a look at what a couple of coastal cities have been doing.

Bluffton: A constant stream of photo and video updates on Facebook gave residents who stayed and those who evacuated up-to-the-minute updates on flooding, evacuation routes and general safety tips. Mayor Sulka’s informal and frequent updates prompted lots of positive feedback from residents and others who have visited Bluffton.

Several Facebook posts gave shout-outs to city staff members who were quickly dispatched to clean up debris. The town Facebook page and the police department Facebook cross-posted many posts allowing a great reach for both.

The town's Facebook page also shared links to the Governor's press conferences and other messages from the state Emergency Management Division.

Edisto Beach: With their second big hurricane hit in less than a year, Edisto officials already knew the power of social media to disseminate safety information and help residents find out about the state of their property. In fact, during the aftermath of Matthew, Mayor Jane Darby’s Facebook post about the plight of Nichols went viral and brought in many offers of help for the small Pee Dee town even while her own town was digging out. The Irma response was no different. 

Mayor Darby used her page to keep people informed, while also cross-posting with the town’s page and the police department’s page.

The Edisto Beach Facebook page also shared links to local news media coverage giving residents and others a one-stop-shop for information.

Mutual aid for municipal electric utilities
The state’s 21 electric cities initially came together more than 30 years ago to form the SC Association of Municipal Power Systems to serve as a conduit for mutual aid in emergencies. The power of this collaboration is never more evident than in a situation like Irma.

Jimmy Bagley, Rock Hill’s deputy city manager, has long been the point of contact for SCAMPS member-utilities offering and needing assistance. Already, Camden has sent crews to help in Sandersville, GA. Crews from several SCAMPS cities are on site today in Seneca and Laurens helping to restore power. Additionally plans are in place for a caravan of SCAMPS crews and equipment to leave tomorrow morning to assist the Jacksonville Energy Authority.

Watch for upcoming posts with tips on using social media in a crisis.

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