MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- June 1 marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and though predictions forecast a mild spell, residents know that it only takes one bad storm to cause immense destruction. To prepare for that possibility, one coastal community, Belmar, N.J., is now relying on social media to alert, interact and stay in touch with its residents.
Belmar realized the effectiveness of social media as an emergency communications channel during Hurricane Sandy, which battered the community of nearly 6,000 residents in October 2012. According to Frost & Sullivan's new case study analysis, Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response, the effective engagement of social media during the hurricane generated nearly $750,000 in donations and supplies. The author of the study, Frost & Sullivan Contact Center Industry Analyst Brendan Read, is a Belmar resident.
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During Hurricane Sandy, social media filled the gaps when residents could not get through on other channels and even allowed residents to engage with officials. Belmar, in particular, utilizes social media to warn and inform residents about both smaller and larger disruptive events, such as ice and snow storms, thunderstorms and downed power lines.
"Belmar's experience proved beyond a doubt the value of social media when disasters threaten and strike" said Read. "Belmar has also shown that social media can reach a large audience, beyond those who have Facebook or Twitter accounts, when the posts are published on Web sites. We monitored Mayor Matthew Doherty's social media feeds on the Belmar Web site and left as soon as we could when we read his order to evacuate."
As with any technology, challenges in providing emergency communications with the public remain. Organizations often have limited budgets, as noted in another Frost & Sullivan analysis, Confronting the Unpredictable in the World of Customer Contact: Strategies for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.
Furthermore, social media relies on Internet access and power, both of which can be cut off when disasters hit. Belmar, along with many other stricken communities lost power for many days. Nevertheless, the increasing ubiquity of wireless communications, made possible through portable towers fed by generators and generator-connected wireless device charging stations, has partially offset these issues.
"Belmar businesses and residents are now using emergency generators, while some apartment buildings have permanent standby generators to support charging stations," noted Read. "As Belmar did during Sandy, it is ready again for when the next disaster looms."
Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response is a Market Insight that is part of the Contact Centers & CRM (http://www.contactcenter.frost.com) Growth Partnership Service program. The study is a blend of interviews with local officials as well as drill downs through the Belmar.com site, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, backed by Read's firsthand observations before and after Sandy struck.
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Using Social Media in Disaster Planning and Response
Corporate Communications – North America
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