Derecho in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia knocks out more than just power
If you happen to live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia (DMV), you might still be without power after a harsh windstorm, known as a derecho, swept through the area. Many citizens were and are sitting at home without power, Internet and fresh food in the fridge, and to top it off, they couldn’t even call 911 for help if they lived in Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia.
The morning after the devastating storm, the Fairfax County government tweeted that the 9-1-1 dispatch center was down and could not receive phone calls. The county suggested going to the nearest police or fire station to report any emergencies.
This tweet poses a major problem for citizens and local government. Citizens trapped from downed trees or other incidents may not have been able to reach out to local law enforcement. On the other hand, Fairfax County recognized that it must still notify its citizens of the problem and resorted to social media, which many citizens could still check on smartphones (assuming the phone wasn’t dead or somehow destroyed).
Deltek Senior Research Analyst Chris Cotner recently released a report titled “Social Media in State & Local Government: A New Paradigm for Engagement and Innovation, 2012.” The report details one of the hottest topics in government and the public sector today. In 2011, large cities used social media (SM) at significantly higher rates than in 2010, and states and localities (including large cities) used Twitter at higher percentages (more than 60 percent), which may be due to an effort for more direct local engagement than in the states. According to the report, state-level government used SM at a much lower percentage in 2010, and this may be due to the difficulty of applying social media at such a large scale. For more information on social media in state and local government, please visit our Industry Analysis section.
The use of social media to inform citizens is becoming all more common, and this is even more essential during emergency situations. Citizens must be aware of Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets that agencies and governments may use during emergencies. Emergency 911 centers must invest in backup power solutions in the case of large-scale natural disasters. Vendors should check with agencies to determine if they need to purchase these types of backups, and provide information on available solutions.