Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

Social Sandy (213.4)

About a dozen years ago, I was on the Tompkins County emergency public information officer task force, helping to plan how information would be distributed in the event of an emergency. We helped run a disaster drill, and we talked about epidemics, ice storms, natural disasters, wars, and more scenarios.

When 9/11 hit, some of the interpersonal connections we'd made were invaluable, and I had some very good sources for information useful to area residents that I was able to share on the radio (I spent most of the day on the air at WVBR) and online (14850 Today, a project we'd been working on, was born prematurely that day).

Every winter for years, I've been involved in running the IthacaNet/WVBR closings and cancellations page, which means waking up at oh-dark-thirty and sometimes spending hours straight making changes and updates. More and more the last few years, some of the info has been going out via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. This week, I was also responsible for getting out some contingency information for work, letting the campus community know about the eateries that would be closed today. That decision was made yesterday on the theory that some staff wouldn't be able to report to work, and rather than be short-staffed across the board, we should plan on fully staffing fewer eateries.

What struck me today is how monumentally different the business of emergency information is now than it was even a few years ago, never mind a decade ago. A good example of great social media efforts in academia this week is the NYU page on Facebook. (Inexplicably, they've never gone to a short URL.) It's also interesting to watch the interplay among visitors to the page, ranging from gratitude for the info to petulance about decisions not being made instantly -- vital and difficult decisions that can't be made lightly, like whether to close the university for another day, or even the rest of the week. Similarly, there was lots of outrage on Twitter about Ithaca College not closing for the day, and about Quinnipiac daring to consider reopening when some students had headed home this weekend to be with their families in Sandy's path, and had no way to get back.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I've been watching the special edition of "20/20" that was on instead of "Private Practice," and in addition to being physically exhausted, as I was an hour ago, I'm now emotionally exhausted, too. Good night.

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