Social media usage and engagement is rapidly increasing. This information is likely not surprising if you are reading this article after clicking on a link from our Facebook post or tweet! According to a Pew Research Center analysis on American adults who use the internet:
"Multi-platform use is on the rise: 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites, a significant increase from 2013, when it stood at 42% of internet users."
For many, social media can be seen in nearly every facet of our daily lives and the public safety field is no exception. Despite some obvious privacy issues, there are a surprising number of benefits to using social media in the public safety arena.
Social media platforms can be powerful tools for communicating messages directly to the public. During a recent influenza outbreak, The World Health Organization was able to produce a successful public safety Twitter campaign that encouraged people to take precautions against contracting the virus.
The World Health Organization is not the first organization to implement such a strategy. In 2009, the Twitter account for the Centers for Disease Control had 2,500 followers before an H1N1 outbreak and jumped to 370,000 followers after its campaign to spread emergency public health information.
Local police and fire agencies are also able to notify the public instantaneously of road closings or fires in the community through social media channels. This can be a powerful tool in reducing traffic and allowing emergency vehicles better access to accidents and fire locations.
New technology is also emerging, with developments in the use of SMS messaging from cellular devices. This new technology allows 9-1-1 callers to send videos and images directly to dispatchers. Such visual information can be incredibly useful in providing first responders with critical information prior to their arrival on scene.
With proper training, social media and other new technology can be useful resources for public safety providers to communicate with the public and ultimately improve safety measures in local communities.
Referenced in this blog:
- Pew Research Center, Social Media Site Usage 2014
- National Center for Biol-technology Information, A New Dimension of Health Care: Systematic Review of the Uses, Benefits, and Limitations of Social Media for Health Communication
- MedScape, Public Health Leaders Using Social Media to Convey Emergencies: New Tools a Boon
- WBTV, New Technology Allows Pictures, Video to be sent to First Responders