Social Media Provides Awareness of the Situation

The December 20th, 2012 tornados that impacted southern Alabama (a still active event at time of writing) provide a good example of content that can be found from multiple social media platforms. Storify is a great free tool for creating a "snapshot" of the situation.


  1. Warnings were tweeted out and posted to Facebook from official organizations. These warnings were amplified by the news media as well as concerned citizens.
  2. Twitter posts are short and to the point, Facebook allows many more characters to describe what protective action measures should be taken. The City of Brewton, Alabama provides an example:
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  4. Interestingly, even as protective action information was being disseminated, reports of damage were already coming in. The state EMA sent out this Tweet at 7:47 am.  
  5. Even if people don't see an initial post from a news organization or government agency Twitter provides an opportunity for important content to get repeated, (as shown below) increasing the number of eyes on the information.
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  7. Radio stations have Facebook pages that they use to both promote their stations as well as to provide information in written form. People can hear what is said, but if they missed the announcement, they can quickly check the station's Facebook page (or their feed) to see if their county was mentioned. This could be a good resource for people that are hard of hearing or deaf.
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  9. Maps were also tweeted out and posted to Facebook. Once they are on social networks, people can view these maps on smartphone apps--no longer do they have to make their way to a TV screen to see what is happening. (Years ago while living in Tennessee I spent many days huddled in my basement during Tornado weather wondering what was going on.  I'd run up to check the TV and then run back down to safety. Why? Radio announcements mention place names, but I was new to the state and the location cues were lost on me.)
  10. Damage reports, such as this one from the Red Cross chapter, are helpful clues about the extent of damage in the area.
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  12. Images of what had occurred were uploaded by bystanders and news organizations, illuminating the state's post that there was "extensive damage." 
  13. Gallows humor is part of the culture of Twitter.
  14. As the storm rolls through, watches and warning cancellations are also posted.
  15. Other areas of the state start to worry about getting impacted.