Course Title: Crisis and Risk Communications

Supplemental Considerations

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Supplemental Considerations:

Radio Iowa News 
Three counties declared disaster areas due to flooding
Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 10:42 AM
By Darwin Danielson
The governor has declared Bremer, Blackhawk and Louisa Counties in eastern Iowa state disaster areas due to flooding. Emergency Management Division director, David Miller, says the designation allowed the state to give them help.
Miller says those counties were getting pumps and sandbags from the Corps of Engineers and the D-O-T was used to transfer the equipment. He says there are other counties that are fighting floodwaters, but haven't yet asked for state help.
Miller says the flood fight is starting to ease in some areas, such as Denver in Black Hawk County, where they returned pumps to the Corps of Engineers today. But, Miller says it's an ongoing problem. He says they’re concerned a little about rain later this week and the impact that could have. Miller says the crests are moving downstream from Denver and Black Hawk County down to Vinton and Anamosa. He says the flow will continue down to Davenport and Burlington as it flows on into the Mississippi.
Miller says his agency is keeping close contact with the National Weather Service to try and gauge the impact as the water moves downstream. Miller says each morning they do a conference call with the weather service and the counties and to look at stream and river projections. He says the good news is that water flows have been a little lower than projected -- although there's still flooding.

Miller says several homes and businesses have already been hit by flooding. He says a number of families have been impacted and people hit by flooding should work with their county emergency management coordinators. Miller says the state has the individual assistance program for low-income residents hit by the flooding, and he says you should work with human services on that program.

Miller says it’s too early to tell a dollar amount of damage yet. Miller says they'll work with county coordinators as the floodwaters go down to assess the damage and determine where they go from here. The governor was already scheduled to be in eastern Iowa today, and will be touring flood damage in Davenport. 
Source: Radio Iowa. 2008

  1. Television (See Slide 15.17)

  1. Television has fully embraced disasters especially the cable news outlets with their 24-7 news cycles.

  1. Disaster programming has become a staple of these cable networks and in recent years these media outlets have provided intensive coverage of even the smallest disaster event. Large events such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami and the Oklahoma City bombing have received around the clock television coverage from the broadcast networks and the cable news outlets.

  1. The broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) with their large news staff and national reach have historically been the primary source of information on disaster events for the public.

  1. Several veteran reporters and news anchors including Dan Rather, John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw made their reputations and advanced their careers by first reporting on hurricanes and other disasters.

  1. In recent years it is the cable news outlets that are leading the disaster coverage.

    1. More and more Americans are turning to the 24-7 coverage of disaster events provided by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and others.

    1. The broadcast networks continue to cover major disaster events but the cable news outlets are grabbing larger and larger audience share with each new event.

    1. Major disaster events mean increased ratings for the cable news outlets and they are investing their resources accordingly.

    1. It is no accident that during Hurricane Katrina CNN’s Anderson Cooper, following in the foot steps of Rather and Brokaw, is the most recent example of a reporter significantly advancing his career through his work in a major disaster.

  1. Ask the students – Do you think that radio and television coverage of emergencies will grow in the coming years?

Objective 15.3 Discuss role of new media in emergencies.

Explain to students through lecture the ways that new media have been used in conducting crisis communications in emergencies. Facilitate student interactions to discuss and expand upon certain points within the topic of this objective.


Explain to students through lecture the ways the evolution of the use of new media in emergencies. Facilitate student interactions to discuss and expand upon certain points within the topic of this objective.

Remarks: (See Slide 15.21)

  1. The magnitude and frequency of natural disasters are increasing. According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, there were four times as many weather-related disasters in the last 20 years then in the previous 75 years.

  1. With this new “Age of Extreme Weather,” has come the evolution and maturation of new media tools and technologies, a dramatic rise in the number of citizen journalists, and an almost annual increase in their contribution to the flow of new information during disasters. “Disasters have provided a unique trigger that have consolidated technological advances in concert with democratizing influences operating outside the traditional brokers of information and aid.”(Laituri, 2008)

  1. Even though the 1990’s was a time of transformation in communications technology with the emergence of the World Wide Web, 24/7 cable television, and array of digital tools –from affordable and widely available wireless mobile devices and high-resolution satellite maps – new media was not a factor in natural disaster coverage or recovery until 2001.

  1. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, citizen-shot videos of the attacks on Twin Towers dominated news coverage and Americans turned to the Internet for information. But the sharp spike in traffic froze and crashed web sites. In many ways, 9/11 was the last disaster covered under the old model of crisis communications: Newspapers printed “Extra” editions, people turned to television for news and “the familiar anchors of the broadcast networks—Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather—took on their avuncular roles of the past for a nation looking for comfort and reassurance.” (May, 2008)

  1. Every disaster since 9/11 has involved more citizen journalists and expanded the use and utility of the new media tools and technologies.

  1. In 2003, during China’s SARs epidemic, people used text messaging to exchange information the government tried to suppress. (Hattotuwa, 2007)

  1. Three major disasters within nine months --the Asian tsunami (2004), the London transit bombings (2005) and Hurricane Katrina (2005) -- marked the coming of age of participatory media. (See Slide 15.22)

    1. The December 26, 2004 Asian tsunami (See Slide 15.23) has been defined as “the turning point – a before-and-after moment for citizen journalism.” Blogs, websites, and message boards provided news and aid – and in real time. One blog, “” logged 682,366 unique visitors in four days. (Cooper, 2007) Wikipedia – a group-created website that is editable by any user -- became the site for basic information, particularly for hotlines that allowed people to search for missing loved ones and find housing, medical and other assistance.

    1. Minutes after four bombs rocked London’s transportation system, a definitive webpage “July 7, 2005 London Bombings” was started with five sentences on Wikipedia. The page “received more than a thousand edits in its first four hours of existence as additional news came in.” (See Slide 15.24)

      1. Users added links to traditional news sources, and information was posted about what public transportation was shut down, listing contacts to help track a missing person and offering directions to commuters trying to get home. “What was conceived as an open encyclopedia in 2001 [became] a general purpose tool for gathering and distributing information quickly…..” (Shirky, 2008)

      1. A cell phone photo taken by a commuter in a smoked-clogged tunnel in the Tube became the iconic image of the disaster. Londoners pooled their digital photos on Flickr – a photo-sharing site and service that allows people to tag pictures with comments and labels. “The photos that showed up after the bombings weren’t just amateur replacements for traditional photojournalism: people did more than provide evidence of the destruction and its aftermath.

      1. They photographed official notices (“All Underground services are suspended”), notes posted in schools (“Please do not inform children of the explosions”), messages of support from the rest of the world (“We love you London”) and within a day of the bombings, expressions of defiance addressed to the terrorists (“We are not afraid” and “You will fail.”)

      1. Not only did Flickr host all of these images, they made them available for reuse, and bloggers writing about the bombings were able to use the Flickr images almost immediately, creating a kind of symbiotic relationship among various social tools.”(Shirky, Here Comes Everybody)

      1. Police asked people to supply them with cell phone pictures or videos because they might contain clues about the terrorists. (Shirky, 2008)

    1. In September 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category three hurricane tore through New Orleans, LA, Mobile, AL, and Gulfport, MS. Over 1,500 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless. (See Slide 15.25)

      1. Blogs became the primary information-providing tool used by both traditional media and citizen journalists.

      1. Staff reporters for New Orleans’ daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, created a blog that for a time became the front page of their news operation. It enabled members of the community isolated by floodwaters and debris to show and tell each other what they were seeing. (Gillmor, 2006)

      1. Message boards provided critical information about shelter locations, family tracing, and missing persons.

      1. Internet expert Barbara Palser counted 60 separate online bulletin boards that were created to locate missing people within two weeks of the storm. “These sites included major portals such as Yahoo and Craigslist, an array of newspaper and television sites, web sites hosted by government and relief organizations, and individual technologists, including a group of programmers who enlisted about 2,000 volunteers to create a database called the Katrina PeopleFinder Project.” PeopleFinder was established “to create a consolidated database of missing people built outside the traditional, centralized institutions (i.e., FEMA, Red Cross).” (May, 2006)

      1. Google Earth and Google Map, which provide and use online satellite imagery were used to illustrate damage assessments – particularly to the Gulf coast and barrier islands. (Laituri, 2005)

  1. After the Java earthquake in 2006, mobile phones became mobile news services. Internews, an international media support group, worked with 180 Indonesian journalists to set up a text messaging service that helped local radio stations to report on the recovery. (Hattotuwa, 2007)

  1. In October 2007, wildfires in Southern California resulted in the loss of nearly 2200 homes and over $1 billion dollars in damages and marked a major step forward in the integration of mainstream media and citizen journalists.

    1. Local media has been highlighting user-submitted photos and videos, and embedding new technology in their prime coverage. San Diego’s public television station, KPBS, used Twitter to give its audience updates when its website went down, and the Twitter updates now have a prominent place on their home page.” (Glaser, 2007)

    1. San Diego TV station News 8 responded to the crisis by taking down its entire regular web site and replacing it with a rolling news blog, linking to YouTube videos of its key reports, plus Google Maps showing the location of the fire. (Stable, 2007)

    1. Also on the site were links to practical information that viewers needed, including how to contact insurance companies, how to volunteer or donate to the relief efforts, evacuation information and shelter locations. “It’s an exemplary case study in how a local news operation can respond to a major rolling disaster story by using all the reporting tools available on the Internet." (Catone, 2007)

    1. Local and national television stations asked for submissions from wildfire witnesses and victims. The NBC affiliated in San Diego received over 2000 submissions of pictures and video related to the wildfires. CNN's I-Reports section reportedly received about the same number of fire-related submissions. (Catone, 2007)

    1. The Google Map (Internet GIS) tool was used to develop maps of shelter locations and fire updates. (Wagner, 2007)

  1. Clearly a symbiotic relationship is emerging between citizen journalists and the mainstream news media. With every new major disaster, the mainstream media’s use of internet-facilitated reporting increases. Government, however, has been slow to appreciate the power or potential of the new media tools and Internet culture.

  1. Ask the students: Do they think the use of social media by “first informers” will continue to grow in use during emergencies and major disasters?

Supplemental Considerations:
By MATT PEARCE / McClatchy Newspapers | Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:00 pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This just in: President Barack Obama has ordered a media blackout over a flood-threatened nuclear plant in Nebraska.

Except ... he didn't.

But that hasn't stopped more than 40,000 Facebook users from sharing a recent article from a Pakistani news agency that says he did -- a ripple that turned into a wave, finally prompting officials to publicly deny the rumors.

Welcome to the new world of catastrophe communication, where social media and the Internet have hyper-accelerated the way that we spread both information and misinformation.

Luckily, that speed has been largely a good thing in a disaster like the Missouri River flooding.

News of upstream levee breaches and faraway road closures, which might have previously trickled out through a news conference later recounted in a newspaper story or a TV broadcast, now flies out as fast as anyone can type a text message, a tweet or a Facebook post.

Among those leading the way have been emergency management officials in Atchison County, Mo., a lightly populated and flood-endangered county in the northwest corner of the state where their Facebook page has drawn almost 2,000 followers.

"We can put something on there, and within 10 minutes, we've had any number of people repost it to their friends and family," said Mark Manchester, deputy emergency management director for the county. Sometimes it's bad news.

"A lot of people have thanked us for giving it to them straight -- even if it's not something that they want to hear -- so they know what's happening."

And there's a lot to share. Thanks to increasingly Web-minded government agencies, hard information is easier and faster to get than ever.

The National Weather Service's website is home to a data-driven flood prediction map -- with multicolored dots representing flood forecasts, strung across the continental United States like lights on a Christmas tree. The dot over St. Joseph, Mo., is purple; click on it, and you can see up-to-the-minute measurements of the river's height, and a prediction of where it's expected to climb.

The Army Corps of Engineers has an array of Twitter accounts and maps and charts that put news and numbers to the real-life flood fight that is expected to last all summer.

"We really work hard to get the word out, and the corps tries to tell the story of this flood very aggressively," said Dave Becker, an operations manager for the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota, where floodwater releases into the lower Missouri River have been tracked almost incessantly by the media and the public.

"We're here to serve the public, and they need to be informed citizens about what's going on in their nation," Becker said. "On a real important issue, like this flood on the river, they need to be informed about what's going on ... so they can make the best decisions about whether they need to sandbag or not, whether they need to evacuate their house or not."

And the social media help spread that message faster.

Unfortunately, Becker noted, "In this age -- the electronic age, the social media age -- misinformation travels pretty fast, too."

The Corps of Engineers this weekend had to respond to a rumor in a video, posted Saturday, featuring a man in an American flag shirt who identified himself as Harold the Smiling Scotsman.

"I'm making this video because there are some very disturbing developments that have taken place along the Missouri River that people need to know about," said Harold, who doesn't have a Scottish accent and doesn't smile in the video.

In a tone of dead certainty, he said that the Gavins Point Dam was about to burst, and that the Corps of Engineers was lacing the dam with explosives as a last resort.

His source? "A few days ago, a very good friend of mine called me to tell me that one of his people has a good friend that holds a position at Gavins Point Dam."

Becker's response: Uh, no.

Becker runs the dam. "All of our facilities are in excellent shape," he said.

Any time spent on fighting false information is time taken away from managing the flood problems.

"The rumors have been as difficult to combat as the rising floodwaters," wrote a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman in a blog post rebutting the Pakistani news article.

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