Twitter Trends in Disaster Response

This past September, the HEROIC (Hazard, Emergency Response, and Online Informal Communication) Project Team, a research team hailing from the University of Colorado, and the University of California-Irvine, recently released a study in which they uncovered twitter trends that occur in the light of natural disasters. They completed their study based on the occurrence of the Waldo Canyon Fire that occurred in Colorado this past June. The fire impacted more than 32,000 residents of the Colorado Springs Area, and resulted in more than $352 million in insurance claims. From the start of the disaster, there were a recorded 100,000 related “tweets” from over 25,000 Twitter users. Following the study, the HEROIC discovered some valuable information regarding the trends of tweets during disasters: 1. Original content is most often produced by local-organizations and then re-tweeted by non-locals. 2. Inclusion of URLs shows that response organizations recognize the need to have additional information available outside of Twitter. 3. Highly active government organizations get the most followers following an event, and the largest of local organizations come in second.

While these types of findings are not groundbreaking by any means, what I think they provide is appropriate tools for us to learn how to use twitter as more than a social media outlet, but more so as a tool and catalyst to disaster relief. The study can definitely help local and national organizations not only better their tweets, but also the timeliness of them and exactly what they should say in order to get their message across as effective as possible. With that being said, I hope they can redo these studies in light of more impactful natural disasters that had more national repercussions such as Hurricane Sandy, because I don’t feel like this specific study covers the whole breadth of twitter as much as I would have liked them to.

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4 responses to “Twitter Trends in Disaster Response

  • cobykg

    It is very interesting to see different strategies and systems disaster management teams use to obtain the most reliable information through social media. There are very useful softwares used by organizations such as Ushahidi and the Red Cross that aggregates information, finds trends in social media and identifies details of a disaster based on users posts. Hopefully these technologies can be further developed and will serve as powerful tools to gain information during times of disasters.

  • npham2

    I’m not surprised that Twitter trends is about Hurricane Response. Social media has become so influential in spreading messages that the first thing people think of when an event or something is happening is post in somewhere on the internet like Facebook or Twitter. I think that many organizations are realizing this social media effect, that during storms even government agency are utilizing these means to communicate and distribute information. This phenomenon would’ve been so useful during Katrina, if it was used so frequent/highly back then.

  • Paige Boetefuer

    I find it very interesting that people are studying and analyzing twitter and other social media outlets in an academic way. While I think it is interesting that they found these trends, and there is much to be learned, I also think that we need to be cautious of not considering social media as reliable data for social science research.

  • vmorgan92

    This study really shows that twitter, Facebook, and other social media are really our best access to information during a natural disaster. During the fires in Colorado, hurricanes in the Gulf, and superstorm Sandy I was able to find out what was going on by my friends tweets and status updates. I was able to know what roads were open for me to drive on to return home to New Orleans. My roommate is able to let her parents know what areas have power and when they should expect power back in new york.
    Hopefully twitter, Facebook and other social medias will be able to create a branch off project purely for reliable knowledge during natural disasters.

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