Tips for Using Social Media and Text Messaging to Manage Emergencies

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Social Media and Text Messaging

Stay ahead of the game by using technology to help protect your family during a crisis. Social media sites and text messaging are important communication tools because they're often the fastest and more efficient means of sending and receiving disaster-related updates.

Text Messages

Nationwide, phone lines started to jam and fail almost immediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks began. The phone system failed because it could not withstand the sudden and tremendous increase in call volume. Despite technological advances, phone system failures will continue to occur during some crises, but this doesn’t mean you cannot communicate effectively with loved ones. We’ve learned that sending text messages and using social media to contact friends and family members during emergencies is faster and more reliable than using traditional phone calls. This is because text messages require very little data to transmit over cellular carrier systems, and after you hit the "send" button your messages will wait in a queue until the system is free and able to send them. This helps ensure messages eventually reach their intended recipients.

Here's another tip--create text lists (saved contact lists containing multiple phone numbers) before a disaster occurs. During a crisis your lists will enable you to broadcast updates, via text messages, to family and friends as a group, which saves time and energy. Talk to your loved ones and make a plan now for how you'll contact one another, and in what order. Here's an excellent resource that can help you integrate social media into your family communication plan.

Social Media

Social media sites can help you let others know your current situation.  For example, updating your status on sites such as Facebook or Twitter can let a wide range of followers know you’re OK.  Likewise, social media and text messages can be used to receive important information during an emergency.  

Before a crisis, it's a good idea to set your social media sites up in a way that will enable you to get timely, accurate information from trusted sources. One way to do this is to subscribe to a Region VII state #preplist on Twitter, or use it as a template to make your own list for monitoring. There are numerous excellent online resources and phone apps available to help you get the information you need from the world around you during a crisis.

Available Resources

Text message alerts for disasters and emergencies can help you stay informed.

Social Media sites can be extremely valuable for sharing information and gathering it. Talk with your family and decide which social media site you'll use to communicate. FEMA actively maintains accounts on several social media platforms:

  • FEMA’s Official Social Media Accounts- FEMA maintains open and active accounts on social media hubs.  These official accounts also include partner organizations and their authorized social media outlets.

  • FEMA’s Social Media Hub- Find updates from multiple sources related to emergency management and ongoing disasters.

  • The Disaster Reporter- FEMA’s crowd sourced site for updates on ongoing emergencies and disasters.  It’s part of the FEMA App allowing users to upload photos to a map.  It's not always active, but during disasters FEMA's Disaster Reporter begins to receive large amounts of traffic and reports.


Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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