Twitter Hashtags in Emergency Management

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As social media becomes ingrained into society, emergency managers should capitalize on the boundless information available from these interactive platforms. Social media can provide user-generated content regarding ideologies, location-specific observations, and first hand experiences that allow emergency managers to respond accordingly. Social media‘s reach, frequency, usability, and immediacy can be utilized as response tool and reveal real-time public perceptions of a company at any given time.

Twitter, the 140-character real-time social communication site, was developed in 2006 and has rapidly gained users since its inception. According to eBiz (as of August 8, 2013), Twitter is ranked 2nd among the “15 Most Popular Networking Sites”. Because of its instantaneous updates and popularity, emergency managers can utilize information for a variety of response activities. It can provide messages inclusive of web links, pictures, audio and video content.

As discussed in the TRP blog entitled “Emergency Management Planning and Social Media” companies should develop processes for monitoring and evaluating social media during an incident in order to collect accurate, real-time intelligence, as well as to obtain a basic consensus of public opinion. The disciplines of social media and emergency management need to interface before an incident happens, not during the response itself. The Twitter hashtag tool, #, allows readers to connect to conversations regarding specific topics or incidents. Utilizing the hashtag tool allows for concentrated, situational communications and can bring specific topics into focus for emergency managers.

Hashtag Guidelines for Emergency Managers

According to Twitter, hashtags are used to categorize Tweets via keywords. Twitter guidelines regarding hashtag usage is as follows:

  • Use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) to categorize those Tweets
  • Hash tagging assists in Twitter searches (ex: #wildfire)
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows all other Tweets marked with that keyword
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics

When a specific hashtag is selected, Twitter displays results for all posts utilizing the same hashtag. However, it is important to consider that hashtags key terms may not be consistent. For example, when searching for information related to the August Tuolumne County, California wildfires, hashtags included a variety of combinations: #yosemite, #Cafire, #RimFire, #Tuolumne. It is important to utilize a multiple variations of an incident when searching for information on Twitter.

Common Emergency Management Hashtags

A series of emergency management hashtags were identified in Social Media 4 Emergency Managers’ blog, “Active Hashtags”. The list below includes many of those identified in the “Active Hashtag” blog, as well as other that have since been utilized.

General Hashtags

  • #preparedness - General term for all topics under the preparedness umbrella
  • #incidentmanagement - Topics relating to managing an incident from activation to recovery
  • #SMEM - Social Media and Emergency Management
  • #VOST - Virtual Operations Support Teams
  • #EM - Emergency Management
  • #Incident - An occurring event. More specific information may be gathered by utilizing a more detailed hashtag
  • #Crisis - Crisis management
  • #businesscontinuity - Business Continuity information
  • #HSEM = Homeland Security Emergency Management
  • #businesscontinuity - Information relating to business continuity
  • #SM - Social Media
  • #Hazmat - Topics involved with hazardous material
  • #WX - Weather-Specific Tweets (for state-specific, these will be preceded by state initials such as #NYWX, #TXWX)
  • #2BeeRdy - Grassroots non-profit movement of Social Media volunteers who've come together to spread the emergency preparedness message
  • #Regulations - Topics associated with local, state, or federal regulations
  • #disasterrecovery - General term for all topics related to disaster recovery
  • #emergencyplanning - Topics related to emergency planning

Government Hashtags Sampling

  • #FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Administration
  • #RCRA - Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • #NFPA - National Fire Protection Association
  • #EPA - Environmental Protection Agency
  • #OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • #NPM13 - National Preparedness Month 2013
  • #PHMSA_DOT - Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration

Conference and Association Hashtags

  • #NEMA - National Emergency Management Association
  • #IAEM - International Association of Emergency Management
  • #UASI - Urban Area Security Initiative
  • #VSMWG - Virtual Social Media Working Group (w/ DHS Science and Technology Directorate)
  • #IAEMETC - IAEM Emerging Tech Committee
  • #NG911 - Next generation 911 initiative
  • #Cleangulf – Clean Gulf Conference
  • #VPPPA - The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association, Inc, is a nonprofit association of cooperative safety and health management systems.
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