Tweeting, tagging, poking, and pinning. This may sound like a foreign language to some, but to the FSU Alert team at Florida State University, this is everyday language. The presence, purpose, and promise of social media can no longer be ignored, and our team has been working hard to combine the worlds of social media and emergency preparedness to help keep our campus community updated and informed.
For the tenth annual National Preparedness Month this September, Florida State University has created FSU Emergency Preparedness Week (#FSUPrep) during the week of Sept. 9 to highlight the many preparedness resources we have on campus, including social media.
To jumpstart the event, FSU Alert’s emergency notification and warning system, including the 30-plus delivery methods utilized to warn and inform the school, are showcased. Sharing the spotlight is our state-of-the-art "EZ Button" rapid activation system, developed with Siemens. The rest of the week will cover severe weather, crime prevention and security, fire safety, and health and wellness -- all chosen to emphasize the importance of student health, safety, and well-being.
Most of these areas feature separate promotion weeks throughout the school year, but, through partnering with different student organizations and departments on campus, FSU Alert has combined the much needed information into one organized week of education to remind new students and upperclassmen how Florida State University, via FSU Alert, is serving them day in and day out.
Social media not only plays a large role in the production of FSU's Emergency Preparedness Week but also in the daily operations of the FSU Alert team. It’s our view that social media is more than just a means of sending out alerts and hoping students, faculty and staff pay attention. We believe in the potential for it to provide a strong platform for education, outreach, and preparedness.
Having students as our primary audience is a unique challenge, but social media allows us to talk with students rather than talk at them. Q&A-style conversations help us successfully maintain communication with students online and on campus by providing a forum for questions about emergency preparedness. Through our FSU Alert accounts, we’re also able to address specific incidents on campus (for example, a fire alarm going off in a library) in an informal, peer-to-peer fashion, like this recent exchange:
@FSUAlert The other day we received an amber alert that made the emergency sound.You guys can push emergency notifications like that?— FSU UndergradStudies (@UnderGrad_FSU) August 29, 2013
We’ve worked hard to establish our credibility on campus as a trusted source of information. We’ve made great strides in combating social media’s greatest challenge - rumor control. Regardless of a rumor’s subject – class being cancelled due to weather, a faculty member receiving a threat, etc. – FSU Alert is the center point in crisis communications on campus.
We continue to collaborate with University Communications to determine the best timing and messaging possible during in an emergency setting, and to share accurate, timely information.
We’re proud to say that the time and energy that we’ve put into growing our presence on social media has paid off, evidenced by our 5,400 Facebook likes and over 7,000 Twitter followers. We’ve also branched out to include platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Youtube to create a broad presence in the social media realm.
Regardless of numbers and figures, possibly our greatest point of pride is the relationship we’ve built with our students. When reaching out to a generation that thrives online, the overwhelming possibilities social media platforms provide should not be overlooked. By embracing social media and incorporating it into our communications outreach, FSU Alert is better positioned to establish a culture of safety and preparedness with our students.
Social media has become increasingly important to crisis communications both at Florida State University and elsewhere. Social media isn’t the whole solution to creating a campus that is well prepared for emergencies. There’s no singular way to accomplish this goal. Through our timeliness, reliability and wit, FSU Alert has garnered the attention and trust of our audience and we couldn’t be more pleased.
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Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, ogranziations or services.