Emergency responders are taking full advantage of a range of new communication systems to try to get the word out about safety precautions as Hurricane Irene sweeps up the East Coast.
In a speech from Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, President Obama urged Americans to listen to government officials for instructions and warnings.
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“So the more you can do to be prepared now--making a plan, make a supply kit, know your evacuation route, follow instructions of your local officials--the quicker we can focus our resources after the storm on those who need help the most,” he said.
To help people make plans, as well as to educate them about evacuation routes and other instructions, government agencies are using almost every form of communication possible, from television to Twitter.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is directing people in the hurricane’s path to websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and mobile apps.
Nongovernmental organizations and companies are getting in on the action as well. Google and Facebook both have Web pages dedicated to information about the storm. And the Red Cross offers an online database where people can register and let loved ones know that they’re safe.
In addition to using social media and other tools to inform the public, emergency officials will also be watching such websites to respond to problems quickly.
Wireless providers and the Federal Communications Commission are bracing for potential service outages once the hurricane hits. After the earthquake on Tuesday, many networks became overloaded. Now cell-phone networks face the additional potential of physical damage from high winds, flooding, or power outages.
The FCC has dispatched teams to monitor communication systems, and wireless carriers say they are preparing as well.
Appearing on CNN on Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said that television and radio stations and social media may be more useful than cell phones in the immediate aftermath.
"Remember, cell phones themselves, with heavy congestion, may not be able to get through," he said.
The National Association of Broadcasters said that television viewership spiked after Tuesday’s earthquake rattled the East Coast, and a similar spike is likely during the response to Hurricane Irene.
For more information on how to find hurricane information online, sign up for alerts, download apps, or visit Tech Daily Dose.