The Content Corner: Using Social Media to Promote, Enhance Preparedness for the Public We Serve

Sep 12, 2016

September is National Preparedness Month. FEMA’s is encouraging everyone to plan how they would stay safe and communicate during disasters that can affect their communities. Additionally, is encouraging full participation in America’s PrepareAthon! and the national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day, which culminates National Preparedness Month on September 30.

America's PrepareAthon! Plan graphic

These days, you probably use social media to update your audience on what you are doing, share an interesting article or two, and catch up on the day’s news.

Government agencies—federal, tribal, state, and local—are using social media in many ways to keep the public informed and hopefully safer.

When a natural disaster such as a tornado, wildfire, or hurricane hits, the National Weather Service (NWS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Guard are among many agencies who are communicating key info to the public on social media platforms. Just check out the hashtags #SMEM, #LESM, etc., and you’ll see some of the chatter. (Do you have any others to share? – send me a tweet @SSgtKRich)

As the #ReyFire wildfires continue to affect parts of Southern California, the California National Guard is pushing out key information on Twitter such as fire locations, including video and photos.

Sonny Saghera, who’s a firefighter and Public Information Officer for Heartland Fire and Rescue, uses social media increasingly to get messages out. Sonny talks about his agency’s use of live video like Periscope to share exactly what’s going on with the public.

As data use continues to skyrocket for the general public and first responders alike, FirstNet, a relatively new federal agency, is tasked with the mission of ensuring the building, operation, and maintenance of a nationwide public safety broadband network. When so much is at stake, public safety shouldn’t have to compete with the general public for bandwidth.

Chrissie Coon, FirstNet Public Safety Liaison and former Public Information Officer at North Las Vegas Police Department, shares her perspective on the continued reliance on social media by public safety agencies. “It is vital to an effective response to have a presence on social media as more and more people are turning to social media during crisis to get firsthand, credible information from public safety agencies,” said Chrissie. “Official Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts have become vital channels for first responders to communicate with the community during emergency response for everything from evacuation information to incident status updates.”

When the disaster strikes, it’s important for those involved in public safety to be seen as a trusted source of information. Part of the preparedness for agencies involved is establishing brand credibility and capturing an audience ahead of time. So, agencies are using social media day-to-day to engage with their community, and share preparedness info.

Throughout September, more than 3,000 organizations—national, regional, and local governments, as well as private and public organizations—are supporting emergency preparedness efforts and encouraging Americans to take action. Each week they will focus messaging and products on several unique areas.

Graphic for 10 ways to participate in America’s PrepareAthon!

This week’s theme on is to Honor 9/11 (Patriot Day) by getting involved in your community & planning with neighbors. Local agencies such as the City of Miami Government are using private social networks such as Nextdoor, a neighborhood watch platform custom-built for each neighborhood that participates.

Public safety agencies continue to work to better connect with the public they serve. For example, check out this viral story of a Mississippi firefighter who plays the movie “Happy Feet” on his phone to try and calm a terrified child who was in a violent car crash.

2016 graphic for Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.
_“Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today,” is the theme by FEMA with a continuing emphasis on preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs._ You can help them promote #NatlPrep Month content with their 2016 Social Media Toolkit by visiting Get started now with these tools:

  • Plan content for each week throughout the month of September with the 2016 themes
  • Social media messages that you can copy & paste from your mobile device
  • Graphics & videos for sharing
  • Official customizable high resolution NPM logo (feel free to add your agency logo)
  • Order publications to share in the community