PODCAST-Victims of hurricanes turned to Twitter and Facebook for help as floodwater rose and winds toppled structures. A combination of government and civilian rescuers answered their calls! 2017 is the demarcation line as we are officially in the social media age of natural disaster response. Dr. Perrodin explains how this new era has introduced both efficiencies and complexities to rescue operations practices.

 

DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode:  http://tinyurl.com/SDP44

 

SPAGHETTI MODELS WERE SLOPPY & CONFUSING

Spaghetti models resemble a blob of noodle strands. The strands represent different outcomes, or paths, of storm systems based upon tweaking of variables. The models are similar to the weatherperson saying, “Tomorrow’s high will be between 70 and 80”. These predictions fail to take into account the countless numbers of variables impacting this open system of weather and also are unable to determine the impact that one variable has upon another.  Hence, such modeling delays reactions by officials and the public as they typically “see” the pattern they desire to see in the spaghetti “tea leaves”.

FEMA FUNCTIONED BETTER THAN DURING HARVEY

Hands down, FEMA head Brock Long was all over preparation for this hurricane.  In concert, Florida Governor Rick Scott was decisive and evacuating over a million people on aging, narrow ocean-side Interstates was not an easy feat. Information was abundant, but as with Harvey, people were overwhelmed with phone numbers, websites and hashtags. This also evolved as Hurricane Irma’s path shifted to the western side of the state. This will be a substantial area for study and growth for rescue agencies – the ability to maintain a centralized Incident Command System and single clearinghouse for information.

USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO REQUEST HELP

It was evident with Hurricane Harvey that people would seek information via social media and also post to social media to seek help when 911 or other call centers were overwhelmed.  I credit the government for asking people to first call 911, but acknowledging that people were probably going to use Twitter and Facebook. These sites were monitored by volunteers not affiliated with government and there seemed to be a rather workable merging of self-dispatched rescuers and government rescuers.

CAJUN NAVY, SHARING PERSONAL INFORMATION ONLINE, COMMUNICATIONS FAILURES & MORE…

However, the evacuation was not a repeat of the significant “Cajun Navy” response during Hurricane Harvey. This was most likely due to inability to enter Florida and perhaps better staging of resources, although the latter is speculation. Dr. Perrodin explains that FEMA and government systems much evolve to interface with social media-based rescues. He also challenges some claims, such as not posting a photo of one’s location as such information is already available to the public via Google maps.  Storm surge, the gradual failure of communications, “above sea level”, and potential energy converted to kinetic storm energy are all discussed in this rhetoric-free presentation by Dr. Perrodin.

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