hurricane michael (NOAA)

Fast-tracking storm warnings

With another hurricane lashing the Gulf Coast, the federal government has been scrambling to get out information on the storm.

The process started the morning of Oct. 9, according to Matt Harmon, the director of web communications at the Department of Homeland Security, when DHS sent an email to the General Services Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking them to (if they hadn't already) stand up target web pages for the storm.

The agencies involved in incident response jumped on a call that started with a high-level briefing from DHS and a storm update from the National Weather Service. Then each agency rep noted the information the agency wants communicated. After the 40-minute call, Harmon sent out an email to the listserv of federal web managers with information that should be on posted their sites.

The agencies involved are familiar with the process and can spring into action quickly. “We’ve been doing this for a while,” Harmon said and an Oct. 10 event hosted by NextGov and Government Executive.

Once a disaster strikes, agencies also start monitoring social media -- a practice that began in the wake of Hurricane Sandy --  to help locate people who are in trouble and spot rumors that should be countered with correct information.

Stacey Palosky, the deputy director of digital communication for the Department of Health and Human Services, said HHS uses Sprinklr's enterprise social media management system to monitor social media so people who need help in flooded areas can be identified.

“Social listening is just ingrained in how our folks are operating at this point,” she said, speaking at the same event.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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