Emergency Officials Turn to Social Media to Give, Receive Weather Information


Emergency sirens sounded statewide Wednesday as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

It's often the sound blasted just before a tornado hits, but emergency officials warn you not to rely on it.

"It's a lousy method of getting an emergency warning inside and it's typically the last one to be activated," said Hall County/Grand Island Emergency Management Director Jon Rosenlund. "It's the least reliable because they're mechanical and they fail."

To get the word out, emergency management directors like Rosenlund are turning to something you may already be checking - social media.

"There's going to be conversation about a tornado or a flood on that social media," he said. "It's important that we participate."

Rosenlund said his office can correct errors or rumors, give out instructions or gather information.

"Here's what I see outside my window or we're trapped in this house here," said Hamilton County Emergency Management Director Kirt Smith of the kind of posts they see.

Smith runs several Twitter accounts, including @BeReadyNebraska.

"I try to keep it active pretty much every day of the week, that way people are used to going there for information," he said.

The National Weather Service is doing the same. On Wednesday, the Hastings office conducted their second social media drill. It got more than 100 likes, shares and retweets by that afternoon.

Smith said although his county has been on Twitter and Facebook for the past two years, it's only recently that people have been catching on.

But, he warns, don't depend on this tech tool either.

"It's definitely another great tool I think to have, but I would definitely not rely on that," said Smith.

Smith and Rosenlund said the most reliable source is a NOAA weather radio.

They also encourage you to monitor local TV and radio stations like NTV.

Online, they recommend following Be Ready Nebraska on Facebook and Twitter.

Many central Nebraska counties have social media accounts and alert systems you can sign up for.

Adams County Code RED

G.I./Hall County Alert

Buffalo County Watch