As someone who lives in New Jersey, and has family on one of the barrier island hit hard by the storm (Absecon Island: Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate & Longport), I can tell you that it will be a long road for many.
Personally my family (Mother, Aunt, Uncle and Cousins) are dealing with relatively minor issues, they all have power and heat. As I started writing this, here in Northern New Jersey, my house was still without heat or power, and it was estimated we would be another week without.
Through all of this, we have been able to count on our community to help out and keep people informed.
With little access to power or Internet access, people turned to their mobile device to stay informed. Twitter and Facebook, in particular, became a place to see pictures and messages from friends and family members during and after the storm. It is how people let others know that they had power or not, and, more importantly, where they can find a gas station to fill up.
The community has extended to include the our school as well. We, too, turned to social media to keep people informed. While we still relied on our InstantAlert system to keep families informed, those without power and phone service were looking for information anywhere they could find it. In a time like this, the more we can communicate, the better. With every message, there was a tweet or a post to accompany it.
We have opened our doors and our rooms to displaced families so that they could come in and communicate. The “word of mouth” that is now online is spreading about the school and our community.
In a recent meeting with our Administrative team, we discussed how we were handling the storm and everything that had come with it.
One thing that had become very clear to us is that social media has a very strong and active place in our crisis management plan. I would ask each of you, and something that was tweeted by ESM earlier this week, is whether or not your school/institution has a crisis plan that includes social media?
When I started writing this, I was at work on Friday, with no power at home. After spending our dinner at a friends with heat and power we went home. As we turned down our street, we saw our lights on and a bright house… it was like Christmas morning for our kids!
With a renewed sense, I woke up on Saturday and jumped onto a Twitter chat – #satchat – that is moderated by one of our newest contributors, Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco — Leveraging the positive power of social media to help others.). The topic for the chat was the post-emergency school procedures, about how schools recover after a crisis, and what are procedures to getting back to educating our students. It was amazing to see the number of people sharing ideas that would help their communities recover.
As progress continues to be made, the role that social media has in getting information out to people can’t be over looked.
On Sunday I went to Twitter and Facebook to try to find a gas station with power and fuel. I was able to find one near my house and while waiting tweeted my experience… I found out I was in line with a Board member, who was also sharing information. The next time I talk about the benefits of social media, I’ll have at least one person to share a personal experience.
As we reflect on the hurricane and all that happened, it’s a good time to think about how your school or institution will communicate during the next emergency. Constant, transparent and clear communications is critical and helps you constituents cope. Did all of you traditional method of communication hold up? Did you look to new ways (Twitter/Facebook) to get the word out? What will you do differently in the future? Things to consider for sure!
I hope you are all safe and well!