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Know How to Use Twitter and Facebook for Emergency Travel Information

Stephanie Rosenbloom - The New York Times
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October 2, 2017
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When an emergency strikes, networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, can be essential travel tools (Reuters)

You don’t have to like Twitter or Facebook, or even post to them, but when an emergency strikes, the networking sites can be essential travel tools.

As Hurricane Maria neared the Caribbean, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) used Twitter to disseminate shelter information. And when an earthquake rocked Mexico, the State Department tweeted an emergency message about how to call the US Embassy. After the explosion at the Parsons Green subway station in London, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, posted a statement on Facebook, confirming that the “bucket bomb” was being treated as terrorism.

Sometimes, organizations rely on social media to get out messages when their own websites are slow, as the National Hurricane Center’s was during Hurricane Irma. Other times, ways to help organically bubble up on social media. In 2015, when Islamic State militants attacked Paris, people used the hashtag #PorteOuverte (“open door”) to offer one another safe shelter.

The key to using Twitter and Facebook in emergencies is choosing the right entities to follow. Misinformation is common. So who to trust?

A word of caution: Sometimes a social media account looks official, but it’s not. On Twitter, look for a blue verified badge, which indicates the account is authentic (although getting verified can take quite awhile, so not every legitimate account has them). Facebook has gray verification badges. Another way is to search for the desired person or organization online, like the Paris Tourist Office, and then connect to that organization’s social media account (@ParisJeTaime on Twitter; @p.infos on Facebook) from its official website.

Check out a beginner’s guide to finding the most helpful accounts at Straits Times


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