An examination of the social media impact in disaster communication

AN EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT SOCIAL MEDIA HAS
IN DISASTER COMMUNICATION
A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment
Philosophy
Capella University

CHAPTER1: INTRODUCTION

In the most recent decade, social media has been increasingly incorporated globally into the daily lives of people. It is defined as media that “consists of tools that enable the open, online exchange of information through conversation, interaction, and exchange of user-generated content” (Simon, Goldberg, & Adini, 2015, p. 611). Words unique to social media such as “social mention,” “tweet,” “hashtag,” and “post,” have entered the daily vocabulary of individuals in many nations.

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are a growing part of many nation's conversations regarding politics, social life, economy, and emergencies. Social media platforms are often called social media tools and are taking an ever-growing role in disaster response (Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, & Spielhofer, 2016). Initially, the main users of social media tools during disasters were ordinary citizens who supplied updates using various types of content. As of the date of this study, an important role in using social media to communicate with the public during disasters has included emergency responders, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations responsible for disaster relief (Reuter et al., 2016).

Various arguments exist concerning the utilization of social media platforms in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Although many organizations have adopted social media platforms, questions regarding their proper use remain. Even a prompt response can trigger a negative reaction from the public if the initiating organization fails to acknowledge the scope of the problem or cannot initiate the relief operations because of poor preparedness. Every organization has a unique approach to addressing these types of issues; however, the task remains of identifying the most effective media platforms to improve the quality of disaster communication and develop guidelines that will be accepted by the majority of governmental and non-governmental organizations. The purpose of this quantitative correlation study is to determine if, and to what extent, a statistically significant relationship existed between (a) EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community; (b) between the application of social media in disaster and risk communication and the following factors: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers; and (c) EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms.

Background of the Problem

As the result of the increased adoption of social media tools by service agencies, social media platforms have brought significant change to communication behavior and communication practices. For example, a response to a disaster should be timely and informative. Over time, social media has become one of the primary tools for raising awareness quickly (Imran, Castillo Diaz, & Vieweg, 2015). Using a social media tool such as Twitter, an assigned person with a digital device (such as a smartphone or tablet) and an Internet connection can rapidly disseminate messages viewed globally.

Sending a “tweet” on Twitter is a modern form of having a news conference, and the audience may incorporate people from different countries and even different continents. An advantage of using a platform such as Twitter, is its rapid response speed. The “tweet” can be written and posted within minutes, and thousands of people can read it in their Twitter news feeds within seconds. This type of advantage makes social media a highly useful tool for quickly communicating with the public when the time is of the essence.

The advantages of social media as a tool for disaster communication have attracted the interest of scholars. For instance, Simon, Goldberg, and Adini (2015) investigated the use of social media channels for crisis response and concluded that conventional communication lines like cellular networks might be overload. The overload may result from the high volumes of information originating from dozens of agencies and organizations that are responding to disaster at the same time. Therefore, social media can serve as a tool for distributing information widely without the fear of the platform being overwhelmed by volume. Studies have been conducted within the field of crisis management and disaster response to reveal how to best deal with crisis communication especially after significant events such as terrorist attack (Simon et al. 2015, Spicer, 2013). Government and non-government agencies and organizations that responded to the major disaster events were either mentioned as a “best practice” example or “poor practice” example.

In traditional disaster communication (before social media), it took an organization or agency about 48 hours to take action after the occurrence of a disaster (Olsson, 2014). Limited technological possibilities and lack of inter-agency connections constrain response time. Olsson (2014) asserted the 21st century “standard” for responding to a disaster or a crisis has significantly reduced response time due to the increasing role of social media and other advanced communication tools. In a world which information might disseminate within minutes or even seconds, the public has come to expect a response in less than an hour. If the organization or agency does not provide a meaningful response within this compressed timeframe, the perceptions of their action by the public quickly become negative. Consequently, to provide a quick and significant response, many for-profit organizations have established particular policies for communication with the public through social media, and public service organizations are following suit.

The research literature about disaster relief communication and the use of social media indicates that the importance of disaster communication is known; however, the extent of social media use in disaster communication, and the factors that affect its application is not known. When a crisis event occurs, people adopt an active information-seeking role (Olsson, 2014). To meet this need, crisis managers have turned to traditional and new media tactics online (Bundy & Pfarrer, 2015). Social media gives the audience unprecedented control over what they read, the way(s) they respond, and whether they choose to act (Alexander, 2014; Bleiberg, 2013; Bundy & Pfarrer, 2015).

Communication activities commonly influence public reactions, either on the venue or social media. During the Boston bombings, for instance, social media was used as the platform for communication with the public. People received first-hand unfiltered data directly from eyewitnesses of the event (Volpp, 2014). However, social media user’s channeled incorrect data to the public and this unsubstantiated information created confusion among journalists, broadcasting stations, and newspaper reporters. The mainstream media had to undertake a careful analysis of each claim to ensure it was accurate and relevant. But the confusion was resolved once an official report from the scene was released. The official statement contradicted most of the information shared on social media (Borah, 2011).

In this specific instance, the wrong reports, which were influenced by social media, caused criticism of most of the news agencies, journalists, television stations, radio stations, and online newspapers that had reported incorrect information (Roller, 2015; Volpp, 2013). Using social media, people can access information on emerging issues and capture the unfolding of events through social media platforms. These social sites have grown from Friendster and Myspace to the most popular current platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Foursquare (Hajli, 2015). The evolution of social media has led to a faster spread of messages and the ability to minimize harm and the number of fatalities in crises scenarios (Hajli, 2015).

The concern lies with the propagators of such messages who have no skill in disaster and risk communication and consequently confuse with their words. Nonetheless, professional agencies are quickly adapting to this mode of communication (Alexander, 2014). Many authors have investigated the application of social media in day-to-day operations. However, they have not explored it from the perspective of emergency and crises communication (Alexander, 2014). Social media communication has overtaken the traditional communication modes, and thus, its impact and adaptability is in need of assessment (Alexander, 2014)

The question regarding the most effective social media strategies for disaster communication and utilization are best answered by investigating the current methods used by emergency management organizations. By comparing these methods, one can identify common patterns and obtain information from sources that use these modes when faced with real emergencies (Rhodes, 2014). This approach can also determine the response of the public to each communication strategy.

Statement of the Problem

The current body research on the impact of social media in disaster communication is still limited because these tools do not have a long history of being used in these circumstances. Many researchers have concluded that social media is effective in improving disaster communication, but most use a small number of organizations for this analysis. The present study was designed to expand knowledge with regards to the impact of social media in disaster communication. Also, the current research was also designed to characterize the attitude of emergency management (EM) toward social media usage, the perception of its usefulness, and its role in the advancement of the profession of EM.

While it is a reasonable expectation that the platforms such as Facebook and Twitter would be a helpful addition to government and non-government disaster relief and communication strategy, the present study was an effort to measure the extent of the utility of social media in such instances. The perception of social media by EM reviewed in some studies, but the evidence provided by them was limited to general attitudes towards the platforms. The contributions of social media to the development of the EM profession have been mostly unexplored by academics.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of social media communication for EM professionals on emergency and crisis communication. Surveying EM personnel involved in managing a crisis allowed for characterization for how these individuals adopted social media platforms (Haataja, Laajalahti, & Hyvärinen, 2016). Results add to risk communication subject matter (Semple, 2009).

In recent years, scholars have begun to assess the way people perceive crisis response strategies (Coombs & Holladay, 2008). The stakeholder’s understanding of crisis response has the potential to influence whether or not a person follows the information provided during a crisis when broadcast through social media. Positive perceptions of an emergency response may help EM personnel mitigate the effects of a crisis, while negative perceptions may intensify these effects. Many factors influence perception and a disaster responder has the ability to use them to reduce or aggravate stakeholder’s reactions during a crisis. These reactions can range from the way stakeholders interact with the organization after the crisis (stop buying an organization’s product because of negative word-of-mouth communication) to how they respond to critical survival information during a disaster such as a flood or a fire (McDonald, Sparks, & Glendon, 2010). If a crisis response is well-received by a crisis victim, they will be more likely to follow the instructions given over social media platforms (McDonald, Sparks, & Glendon, 2010).

Another factor that influences perception is the inherent uncertainty that accompanies a crisis. When there are high levels of risk, it can be difficult for EM personnel to provide instructions that victims follow because victim's decision-making processes become clouded, which in turn slows the response to information that offers protection from harm. Collins et al. (2016) contended that the level of uncertainty is compounded by EMs are met with an aimless and seemingly endless amount of data broadcast over social media. One way to overcome the challenge of risk is to acknowledge it. If a crisis manager waits for certainty, it might mean other valuable information might not get to stakeholders on time (Reynolds & Seeger, 2005).

Therefore, it is imperative that accurate information is furnished. Rather than offering overly reassuring statements, explaining that all information is not currently available allows the crisis manager to refine the message as more facts become available (Olsson, 2014). Providing information when circumstances are unverified may reduce a spokesperson’s credibility, which translates into believability and trust. The way the public perceives a crisis response can influence the way victims respond to crisis messaging (Donahue, Cunnion, Balaban, & Sochats (2014).

In recent years, social media has changed the way the public communicates about crises, such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks (Semple, 2009). Scholars have noted that controlling information flow is one way to aid the successful management of a crisis (Wigley & Fontenot, 2011). Before social media, crisis information ideally flowed from the crisis manager to the news media and the public. More recently, however, social media users have begun to intercept this information flow and become part of the crisis communication effort by sharing and re-sharing information. In doing so, they can create a spread of information to millions of people with only a few clicks (Veil, Buehner, & Palenchar, 2011). Appreciating the motivations and barriers in its application will shed light on the possible drawbacks and areas to be improved among the professionals, and this will add to our understanding in this area (Rhodes, 2014). Results of the present study may be a useful source of information for emergency communicators on the adoption of social media strategies, hindrances, and the specifics of needed improvements.

The Significance of the Study

The topic of disaster risk and crisis communication is significant to the field of public safety leadership because it can determine public needs for information in emergency situations and help EM personnel develop appropriate responses. Cornia, Dressel, and Pfeil (2016) posited that effective risk communication determines the way a disaster management team will respond to the presented risk. Therefore, the present study was important because it provided an analysis of the current practices public safety authorities use about social media during crises that require immediate and effective action. The investigation resulted in a definition of the most useful methods and provided information for possible improvement. Public safety professionals, including EMs personnel, may find the evaluation of these practices useful.

The topic is significant because the discourse reveals effective means of communication during a disaster incident. Public safety is a priority, especially with the current acceleration of public crises due to terrorism. When faced with a disaster, communicating early and in the most efficient ways aids in public safety by directing help to the right place. Results of the present study revealed that social media could be effectively utilized to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders by providing accurate, timely information that is supported by the credibility of the agency responsible for disaster response.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Based on information in the preceding sections, the subsequent research was an effort to answer the following research questions:

RQ1: To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community? The question measures the extent to which EM professionals use the social media to share information with others.

Ho1: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community. Ho1 provides a scenario that represents lack of statistical relationship between EM professionals use social media in sharing information with others.

Ha1: There is a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community. Ha1 affirms a significant statistical relationship between the uses of social media by EM professionals in sharing information with others.

RQ2. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers?

Ho2: There is no statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

Ha2: There is a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

RQ3. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms?

Ho3: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms.

Ha3: There is a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms.

The first research question was an effort to determine how often EM professionals used various social media sites to distribute and exchange information with colleagues and members of the public. This question was intended to reveal what role social media played in the professional life of EMs as well as to indicate the most frequently used form of social media was. The impact of social media on the development of the profession of EM and the ways it uses were studied.

The second question included some factors related to the use of social media for EMs: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers to the application of social media in disaster and risk communications. Determining the role of each factor was intended to contribute to better understanding the measures needed to facilitate the use of social media by EMs. For example, prior research suggests that personal innovativeness plays a vital role in the early incorporation of social media in disaster communication strategies by fire departments (Latonero & Shklanski, 2011). Given that many emergency management organizations still limit their use of social media, personal innovativeness of particular individuals was perceived to accelerate the process of meaningful adoption and use perhaps.

The third question was related to any connection between EM demographic characteristics such as age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms, aspects that could be related to different patterns of use. Previous research has suggested that female EMs share more positive attitudes towards social media so they use it more to communicate risks to the public. Because most research about disaster communication and social media is relatively recent, more evidence was needed to confirm these results and to provide more details.

Definition of Terms

Definitions provide clear, specific meanings of thoughts and ideas, without a discrepancy between or among readers (Weatheringham, 2017). Surbhi (2016) advocated the importance of identifying the purpose of language usage to increase shared understanding. The following operational definitions are in use in this dissertation.

Crisis communication. Crisis communication as defined by Collins, Neville, Hynes & Madden (2016) as “the exchange of risk relevant safety information during an emergency situation” (p. 161).

Disaster. Disaster is “an accurate disrupting the normal condition of existence and causing a level of suffering that exceeds adjustment of the affected community” (Martini, 2014, p. 5).

Disaster preparedness. Disaster preparedness is explained by Sutton and Tierney (2006) as “activities, programs, and systems developed and implemented before a disaster/emergency that are used to support and enhance mitigation of, response to, and recovery from disaster/emergency” (p. 4).

Emergency manager. Emergency manager is “an emergency management position that handles the public relations functions of emergency and disaster response” (Hughes, 2014, p. 727).

Emergency management. The Emergency management is “the managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters” (Rose, Murthy, Brooks, & Bryant, 2017, p. S126).

Organizational crisis. A corporate crisis is “the perception of an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organization’s performance and generate negative outcomes” (Heradstveit & Hagen, 2011, p. 16).

Risk communication. Risk communication is “two-way exchange of information between interesting parties about the nature, significance, and control of a risk” (Lowbridge & Leask, 2011, p. 34).

Social media. Social media is defined as media that “consists of tools that enable the open an online exchange of information through conversation, interaction, and exchange of user-generated content” (Simon, Goldberg, & Adini, 2015, p. 611).

Research Design

The method deemed appropriate for the present study was quantitative, and the correct design was deemed to be correlational. Bijeikienė and Tamošiūnaitė (2013) defined the quantitative approach as “a set of methods based on quantification or measurement and that employs statistical, mathematical, and computational techniques” (p. 16). The present study was implemented using survey questionnaires that required numerical answers to questions, which is a commonly used research design. Surbhi (2016) asserted the research problem is the most important factor when determining the research design. Jang (2017) explained that quantitative research is the best utilized when a research problem results in an attempt to describe trends or make group comparisons. De Vaus (2013) explained that surveys are useful in “describing the nature of existing conditions or identifying the standards against which existing conditions could be compare” (p. 224). Babbie (2001) stated, “Survey research is probably the best method available to the social researcher who is interested in collecting original data for describing a population that is too large to observe directly” (p. 240).

The present quantitative correlational study entailed descriptive statistics and hierarchical regression analysis for hypothesis testing. Hierarchical regression analysis is also preferred because it makes it possible to test if a group of variables add to a significant level of the variance determined by a preceding set of variables (Brooman & Darwent, 2014). Experienced EM professionals, those who disseminate information (Veil et al., 2011), were surveyed through the auspices of SurveyMonkey®, an online research portal. Participants were mainly drawn from membership of the International Association of Emergency Managers and the sample was limited to those living in the US. The methodology ensured dynamic reports that could be generated by EM use of social media was addressed (Hajli, 2015).

Assumptions and Limitations

Assumptions. The following three assumptions were applied to the study.

  1. Each of the respondents will give an honest opinion.
  2. Participants will completely understand each of the terms used in the survey.
  3. Participants will see participation as a way to guide future practice and provide thoughtful feedback (Coughlan, Cronin, & Ryan, 2009).

It assumed that social media was frequently used when disaster struck, allowing the EM professionals to deal with situations before they become uncontrollable (Baker, 2016).

The IDEA model carries some particular assumptions that need to be identified. First and foremost, this theory assumes that an EM can gain and maintain the attention of the target audience by proving the relevance of the potential risk to them (Sellnow, Lane, Sellnow, & Littlefield, 2017). In turn, the connection is achieved by showing the chance for a particular area and pointing to that risk as imminent to generate a quick action. Second, the IDEA model assumes that if the emergency situation is concisely explained the receivers will take the desired steps. For example, according to the model, a valid risk message should include an explanation of the emergency, the way it is anticipated to develop, and how it can impact the receivers. A brief and understandable message should be sufficient to increase self-efficacy and confidence in the target audience.

Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) contended effective communication is base on internalization, distribution, explanation, and action (IDEA) model, which contains assumptions relevant to the present study. This model is being used as the primary theoretical foundation for this study. An assumption carried by the IDEA model is that if a message provides particular and meaningful actions, the target audience’s ability to protect themselves and their loved ones will be increased (Sellnow & Sellnow, 2017). The assumption is that people will look for the best action steps in emergency situations, but will be left with a sense of helplessness if those steps are not made available. Another assumption of the model is that instructional risk and crisis messages are to be distributed and easily accessible to the target audience. These IDEA assumptions may have influenced responses of the study participants.

Previous research and literature on the topic of the present study also provides some topic-specific assumptions. For example, Collins, Neville, Hynes, and Madden (2016) assumed that social media has a profound effect on disaster communication because it has the potential to increase the preparedness of the public for emergencies. Collins et al. stated that instructional risk and crisis messages sent to the public by EM empowered groups and individuals to develop particular preparatory measures and take decisive action and can help to affirm their sense of control over a crisis. Baker (2016) stated that social media made communication easier when disaster struck by allowing the EM professionals to deal with a situation before it became uncontrollable, which supports this suggestion, however, the risk of miscommunication is not be dismissed.

Limitations

The present study had limitations that should be acknowledged. First, and while recognizing that online questionnaires typically have lower response rates than those administrated via paper, the use of the survey-oriented website, Survey Monkey®, to distribute the inquiries was likely to have skewed the sample in favor of people who frequently browse the internet and use social media on a daily basis. The process is relevant for this study because the use of social media requires a certain level of internet expertise. Second, it is also worth acknowledging that people who participate in online surveys, even particular professionals, often respond to them by providing snap judgments, based on available data and may be easily impacted by various factors, including contextual and emotional responses to the questions (Andrews, Nonnecke, & Preece, 2007).

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

This chapter contains explanations of the foundation of the study, its purpose, significance, and design. Essential information about the importance of enhancing public safety leadership, and effective incorporation of innovative methods of communication with the public during crises as presented. Chapter 2 contains a review of the current body of research regarding the use of social media by emergency services, resulting in the identification of the knowledge gap that needs to be filled by the present study. Chapter 3 contains the methodology utilized for this research, as well as details about the sample, procedure, and method of analysis of data. Chapter 4 includes the results and determination of whether the null or alternative hypotheses should be accepted or rejected. Chapter 5 contains a discussion of the results, the relevance of the results to the theoretical framework described in Chapter 2, and implications for the current practice of crisis communication.

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

The primary purpose of this research was to study the application of social media in disaster risk communications by EMs personnel. The strategy for searching the literature begins the chapter, followed by identification of the IDEA model and its theoretical application to the study project. Included in the discussion are reviews of social media and risk communication, social media disasters, primary functions of social media preparedness, and the role of the emergency managers.

Documentation

The search for information was conducted to find as many resources as possible. Inclusion criteria for the review were peer-reviewed empirical studies published within ten years before to the date of this dissertation to ensure relevance. The investigation resulted in past and present information that is necessary to justify and form a cohesive background for the study (Mujis, 2004). The search conducted in multiple electronic databases including ProQuest, Science Direct, Semantic Scholar, Web of Science, First Search, World Cat Advance Search, ProQuest Digital Dissertations, Search.Gov, and ABI/INFORM Global, Emerald Management Thinking, Science Direct Dissertation databases, and Eric Education Resources Information Center. Google’s online databases provided citations of pertinent literature. Bibliographic and reference listings accessed from appropriate titles discovered within the review process. Approximately 141 scholarly discussions about the keywords “social media and disaster communication,” “social media and crisis response,” and “social media and emergency managers,” as well as others, were researched.

The selection of optimal search terms was a result of multiple attempts to find pertinent information. For example, the word “social media and government agencies” did not produce results that could support the purpose of this study, and was discarded as a search term. The databases included abstracts, titles, and keywords of articles. Table 1 clarifies the process.

Table 1

Search Results per Database

Keywords

Database

First Results

After initial scanning

Added to the final sample

“Social media and disaster communication,” “social media and crisis response,” and “social media and emergency managers.”

Science Direct

32

18

10

Web of Science

25

12

11

Semantic Scholar

15

15

13

ProQuest

69

34

19

Total

141

79

53

Theoretical Orientation for the Study

After Walter Lippmann stated that the media directly influenced public opinion, the media’s effect on what we talk about and how we talk about it has been an important area of study (Wasike, 2013). Wasike termed it "framing theory." Framing theory suggests that building a system of references over time can shape the way the public feels or thinks about a subject (Reynolds & Seeger, 2005). Framing is achieving by presenting a story from a particular perspective that highlights a negative or positive feature. It is the selection of certain aspects of reality to make them more salient to promote the desired interpretation (Wasike, 2013). Framing theory is especially critical in hard news stories, such as terrorist attacks, because most of the information the public receives about these types of stories is derived directly from the media (Reynolds & Seeger, 2005). Throughout history, American news media have developed frames concerning the war against common enemies (Smith, 2013).

Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) promoted a model of communication termed the IDEA model (Figure 1). This model used as the primary theoretical foundation for this study. Based on the findings by Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) and supported by Baker, (2016).

IDEA Model developed by Sellnow

Figure 1. IDEA Model developed by Sellnow and Sellnow.

Internalization. The authors of the model provided specific instructions on how to achieve the internalization through proximity, timeliness, and personal impact. For example, timeliness accomplished by explaining that the threat is imminent and that specific actions need to be taken to reduce or eliminate risks. Risk communicators often face a problem with insufficient motivation to engage in offering risk preventive advice to members of the public, even when they need to demonstrate the importance of acting as quickly as possible. This problem can be eliminated by stressing that the risk is imminent and can have harmful effects.

Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) suggested proximity can be achieved by intentionally focusing on the existence of high risk in a specific geographic location inhabited by receivers of the message. This technique is useful for increasing interest in the problem among the inhabitants of the area at risk, which is needed to ensure maximum public awareness and preparedness. Lastly, emergency messages communicated by risk responders should speak to personal impact by considering how the potential risk can harm the target audience and to what degree (Sellnow & Sellnow, 2013). For example, it would be almost impossible to internalize the risk of ground beef contamination for vegans because of the lack of a potential personal impact.

Distribution. Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) noted that effective communicators should have strategic choices on the delivery of the risk messages. For instance, communicators should be aware of how different target recipients prefer to receive risk-related food safety information. The variability among different audiences for acquiring information using various channels should be addressed given that some segments of society have access to modern and traditional media while others have minimal or no access to either. Effective communicators should thoughtfully select the media through which to share messages if all segments of the population at risk can be reached (Ross, 2016; Sellnow & Sellnow, 2013).

IDEA Model Strengths

Explanation. In the second aspect of their theory, Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) noted that effective risk communication should entail a description of the situation and the course of its development, the scientific background, what it’s done at the moment, and expected response. The explanation should also translate science by using practical examples and familiar terms. Crisis communication should at least be (a) brief, (b) understandable, and (c) offered within the components of internalization and action (Ross, 2016). If the messages are not in line to the needs of the target audience, it is possible that it could reduce self-efficacy and confidence.

Action. Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) noted that effective risk communication should propose a meaningful course of action for the receivers to help protect themselves and their loved ones. Upon understanding the risk event and having internalized the relevance, they are given suggestion about how to minimize their personal risk. In case the message does provide the appropriate course of action, the receivers may encounter a feeling of hopelessness and a sense of fatalism in a problematic situation.

Message tailoring. The IDEA model of crisis communication suggests that emergency messages must be brief, understandable, and provided with components of guidelines that instruct how to act based on the given information. The main strength of this theory is the current body of research which supports the idea that message tailoring increases effectiveness and public preparedness in crisis (Eisenman, Glik, Gonzalez, Maranon, Zhou, Tseng, & Asch, 2009; Sellnow, Lane, Sellnow, & Littlefield, 2017). To tailor messages to target audiences, emergency responders can base them on gender, culture, sub-culture, learning style preferences, and other characteristics. Previous research supports the idea that ‘message tailoring’ can have a positive impact on action by members of the public.

For example, Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) suggested that messages are effective when they are in the language of the receivers. In their experiment about food safety, they presumed that the target audience understood English, but did not check whether all participants had it as their first language. The IDEA model can thus provide useful guidelines for crisis communication used by EM personnel by defining characteristics of messages that are perceived as appropriate to receivers. Message tailoring could be an effective strategy in crisis communication because it focuses on the target audience’s needs and preferences (Eisenman, Glik, Gonzalez, Maranon, Zhou, Tseng, & Asch, 2009).

Social Media and Risk Communication

Social media is being defined in many ways. Roshan, Warren, and Carr (2016) described it as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (p. 351). In this regard, user-generated content refers to any information on social media created by users, including posts with images, text, videos, status updates, and live streams. Peterson (2014) explained social media as Internet-based applications that "promote high social interaction and user-content generation often at a one-to-many scale” (p. 350). Since 2005, the percentage of adults using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has increased more than ten times. By using these sites, users can perform a wide range of activities, such as asking questions in online communities, learning about upcoming events, promoting their businesses, disseminating information, and communicating with people all over the world.

Velev and Zlateva (2012) have provided a comprehensive list of characteristics in social media that encompasses all primary and secondary functions including the following:

  1. Allows interactions to cross one or more platforms through sharing, feeds, and email.
  2. Enables communication to take place in real time or asynchronously over time, which is why broadcasters now increasingly use it.
  3. Involves various levels of participant engagement when one can create, view, comment, and share posts.
  4. Facilitates increased speed and breadth of information dissemination
  5. Can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection.
  6. Extends engagement by providing access to real-time online events, augmenting them or extending online interactions.
  7. Offers one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communications.

Risk communication is an area in which social media has been playing an essential role in the most recent decade. Sellnow, Lane, Sellnow, and Littlefield (2017) defined it as “an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among individuals, groups, and institutions” (p. 2).

One of the main purposes of risk communication is to build trust through engaging public stakeholders in the emergency recovery activities and decision-making process. The interactive nature of the dialogue between stakeholders can improve the quality of risk decisions because it contributes to better communication, which in-turn promotes collaboration (Sato, 2015). The process of disaster and risk communication, however, can be disrupted by the chaotic conditions of rapidly escalating risks. These conditions warrant a shift from dialogue to instructional messages that, for example, describe guidelines for self-protection.

Collins et al. (2016) asserted the initial step of honest crisis communication is “understanding how to structure and deliver emergency messages appropriately” (p. 162). During emergencies, people turn to social media to discover as much information as possible, so disaster management agencies should meet this need. To achieve this purpose, Donahue et al. (2012) argued that the language used by teams of EM should address maximum useful factors, including the stage and severity of the situation. For example, as the severity of the crisis intensifies and the level of threat(s) increase, any direct public guideline or recommendation should be clear and informative, but not aggressive to avoid inducing panic among people. Collins et al. (2016) also recommend delivering public messages in regular intervals to help the target audience predict when the next word will appear.

In the context of best practice principles, the study by Collins et al. (2016) provided useful information. Collins et al. recommended that the messages sent to the public by EM teams should empower groups and individuals to take decisive, thus helping to affirm their sense of control during a crisis. This recommendation corresponds to the official guidelines released by the European Centre for Disease Control (CDC), which also advises emergency management services to provide communication. It gives people with a chance to engage in decisive action because it will “reduce anxiety and can restore a sense of self-control” (Collins, Neville, Hynes, & Madden, 2016, p. 162). Barry, Sixsmith, and Infanti (2013) supported this statement by suggesting that the actions advised by disaster response organizations may be preparatory or symbolic, such as developing an escape plan to help citizens to relate to the disaster they are experiencing. Collins et al. (2016) and Barry et al. (2013) proposed the following best practice guidelines for risk communication:

  1. Deliver clear and consistent messages.
  2. Empower receivers to make better decisions
  3. Ensure that emergency management organizations utilize multiple social media platforms to reach the broadest population, including marginalized groups, communities, and minorities.
  4. Provide the public with accurate information that shows the real risk of level because being casual in emergencies may lead to negative consequences for affected individuals.
  5. Call for avoiding inappropriate actions such as looting and rioting.
  6. Minimize the formation of rumors by being regular.
  7. Be as flexible as possible to suit every scenario.

In addition to these critical factors, EM organizations are also advised to listen to the feedback provided by receivers of information and adjust their messages accordingly. Given that members of the public have more access to sources of information than ever before, the need to remain trustworthy is also something that EM personnel should consider (Barry et al., 2013). For example, they need to be clear and provide accurate messages that meet the information needs of their target audience, without patronizing it or downplaying risks. This strategy helps to structure message formulation and must remain constant at the time the emergency is over.

Barry et al. (2016) argued that "best practice principles of crisis communication via social media are effective because they remain focused on the needs of the audience” (p. 163). If a team of EM personnel shares sufficient and accurate information on time, the members of the public will have more confidence in the messages and make the best possible decisions. These principles are especially important because people do not want to have to select one of many social media messages provided by government agencies, but want the best and correct information (Reynolds, 2005).

The importance of tailoring disaster communication is demonstrated, by the results of a study by Eisenman, Glik, Gonzalez, Maranon, Zhou, Tseng, & Asch (2009). This group of researchers investigated ways to improve Latino disaster preparedness using social networks. Eisenman et al. determined Latino communities in the US are often left out of notifications and information because most disaster preparedness programs are tailored to mainstream easy-to-target audiences, and are primarily in English. New Latino immigrants, those who do not speak English, and those with weak Internet access, are poorly prepared for severe emergencies and are therefore at an increased risk (Einsenman et al., 2009). After testing a culturally sensitive disaster preparedness program in California, Latino communities that included culturally relevant, Spanish-language disaster communications distributed via social media, Eisenman et al. were able to increase the overall preparedness in this difficult-to-reach population. Their results demonstrated the significance of culturally appropriate disaster information for reaching diverse communities that are often left out.

Social Media in Disasters

Online social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can assist in solving different problems during emergencies that include terrorist acts and natural disasters (Simon et al., 2015). In cases of a tsunami, earthquake, or other natural disaster emergencies, regular communication often experiences disruptions, or even cease to function while social media outlets remain active. Some studies have shown that the use of email and mobile phones increases during disasters. The purpose of social media also increases and even surpasses some traditional methods of communication, including fixed phones (White, 2014; Panda, 2012). In addition to individual citizens and sizeable public emergency response services, the use of social media is also used by many non-government organizations to inform their workforce about disaster outcomes and relief.

Most of the scholarly investigation regarding social media during disasters has centered on its role as a news source. Naturally, the amount of information circulating on social media is enormous. It can be produced quickly and disseminated across thousands of devices regardless of location. Sadri, Hasan, Ukkusuri, and Cebrian (2017) found that social media can become a reliable source of information when power outages severely disrupt the functioning of TV stations and landlines. People expect constant advice and information, not only during disasters but also in the wake of disasters to ensure that they are prepared in advance to respond to an emergency situation. During the period of accident, the mainstream conversation joined not only by emergency responders and victims but also people who have heightened concerns about their loved ones who could be affected by the event.

Agencies and organizations responsible for emergency response are currently using the opportunities provided by social media during disasters for communication; for example, they can instantly broadcast and amplify emergency warnings to the public (Velev & Zlateva, 2012). Social media is being increasingly considered a reliable channel of communication that allows communication with many people. However, many scholars including Velev and Zlateva (2012) and Qu, Huang, Zhang, and Zhang (2011) have confirmed that the most desirable role of social media in the wake of certain emergencies, such as natural disasters, is still unclear, but it could be of great value. It can connect displaced family members and friends, provide information about the unclaimed property, help find the correct direction for bodies, offer information about aid centers, give awareness to people outside the affected areas, generate donors and volunteers, and provide helpful information to people pre- and post-disaster.

White (2014) described how social media is used before, during, and after disasters, which was included in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports. Specifically, White (2014) found that social media “gives disaster management organizations a means to communicate with the public to provide them with a plan for what to do if an emergency develops” (p. 4). White, listed four primary ways for uses of social media before a disaster:

  1. Keeps the public informed on one location and movement of potential hazards.
  2. Identify reliable information sources on a disaster incidence.
  3. Advises the public on how to prepare if an emergency occurs.
  4. Provides the public with confidence that the disaster management organization is completely capable of conducting proper emergency response if required.

The primary reason provided by White (2014) for why emergency responders should use social media is because it gives them a way to get vital information out to the public quick and efficiently. Below are the proposed methods in which social media is used during a disaster, as described by White (2014):

  1. Provides the public with the latest information on road closures.
  2. keeps the audience aware of areas they should avoid visiting.
  3. Informs the public about evacuations in affected areas.
  4. Reveals incorrect information and rumors about emergency response and disaster.
  5. Keeps affected individuals aware of the actions that are being taken to assist them.

Social media is also useful for emergency responders after the disaster.

  1. During the process of normalization, it can be used to provide information on recovery efforts and available resources for affected individuals.
  2. Assures survivors in the support by emergency responders.
  3. Offers the public with information on the recovery effort.
  4. Helps to reunite families who have separated during the disaster.
  5. Raises awareness of non-profit organizations looking to assist with the recovery.

Limitations and Weaknesses of Social Media

In Crisis Communication

Previous research revealed some limitations and weaknesses of social media in the context of crisis communication. For example, White (2014), Zeng, Starbird, and Spiro (2016), and Latonero and Shklovski (2011) suggested that social media platforms should be considered by emergency response organizations to ensure effective communication with the public during crisis scenarios. White concluded that the limitations should not persuade an organization to abandon using social media because “the benefits appear to outweigh the drawbacks” (p. 5) significantly. Analysis of the limitations and weaknesses revealed the following results.

Non-use of social media. The first potential limitation that can undermine the effectiveness of social media in crisis situations is the non-use of social media (White, 2014). For example, older generations may not be sufficiently familiar with the technology or may lack the skills to operate it. They may feel more comfortable using conventional communication channels, such as television and radio. Therefore, a disaster management organization should consider using both traditional media and social media to maximize the reach and ensure that older generations have an opportunity to obtain information from conventional resources.

Non-use of the Internet. The second potential limitation is the non-use of the internet. Although the vast majority of people today have a Smartphone and a reliable internet connection, there are still many individuals who do not have access to this worldwide network. Besides, about 36 million Americans (15% of the total population) report not using the internet (Bennett, Stewart, & Atkinson, 2013). While this may sound surprising, recent research by Horrigan (2014) revealed that 29% of Americans had low levels of digital skills and 42% reported having moderately good digital skills. These findings suggest that almost one-third of the American population may lack sufficient skills to obtain information from social media during crisis situations.

Horrigan (2014) found that those with low levels of digital skills “tend to be older, less educated, and have lower incomes” (p. 5). To illustrate the divide in the use of the internet by different population groups, Horrigan conducted a survey asking a random sample of participants about their digital skills and internet browsing habits. Only 49% with self-reported low digital skills visited a government website recently, while the same reported by 89% of people with high levels of digital skills. Therefore, it is essential to consider that a large percentage of the population may not have access to social media in crisis situations.

Rumors. The third critical limitation of social media that needs to be considered by crisis management organizations is ‘rumors.’ Inaccurate information and stories can spread over social media very quickly (Ozturk, Li, & Sakamoto, 2015; Zubiaga, Liakata, Procter, Hoi, & Tolmie, 2016). In emergency situations that create confusion, some people tend to believe false information, so it is crucial for disaster management organizations to identify and correct all false information circulating on the internet as quickly as possible. For example, an organization may advise the public to disregard unreliable reports from individual users of social media, and even some organizations, unless official reports and statements support them.

Prior research has revealed the impact of rumors and misinformation and how content and user features could be associated, with public attention on social media. For example, Zeng et al. (2016) found that content and user characteristics played an important role in determining the care given by a user to a social media message. Zeng et al. stated that several features affected the interest of social media users to rumors on Twitter: rumor stance, uncertainty, and right or false news and sentiment. First, the messages that featured a clear position on the story were re-tweeted more than those without it (Zeng et al., 2016). Second, if authors of tweets about crises expressed uncertainty, their messages also received insignificant attention. Third, the scholars found that tweets with extreme sentiment tended to be re-tweeted more often and faster compared to emotionally neutral ones.

Concerning the impact of false information on social media, previous work has also warned about the need for quick correction. For example, Starbird, Maddock, Orand, Achterman, and Mason (2014) reviewed the effect of rumors during the Boston Marathon Bombing and found that they were persistent and continued to propagate at low volumes after corrections from reliable sources faded away. Users cited a false Twitter rumor about an 8-year old girl running in the marathon, who was reported to have died in the attack. According to the analysis completed by Starbird et al. (2014), the original rumor was re-tweeted 33 times, but it then began to spread in many forms from different authors. Correctly, the scholars identified 92,785 tweets related to the story, 90,668 of them were false, and only 2,046 were corrections. The peak correction occurred roughly within the same hour interval as peak misinformation, which suggests a quick community response. Findings also indicated that rumors spread quickly, and continue to appear on social media even after corrections has posted. It is clear that emergency managers working with social media should thoroughly monitor the information to stop the spread of misinformation following a disaster.

Unrealistic expectations. White (2014) determined that one of three Americans “expects help from a disaster management organization within an hour of their posting information on social media” (p. 6). Given that the vast majority of the public also expect all crisis response organizations to monitor social media in emergency situations actively, the expectations from reliable sources of information are high. However, in the case of a crisis, an organization responsible for informing the public may simply be too busy to monitor communications outside their channels, so responding to every person over social media may be unrealistic (Imran et al., 2015). Some people can become frustrated, and even agitated if they do not receive a quick response to their requests. These individuals may perceive that the organization is not correctly doing the job since it fails to provide a timely response. This limitation should be considered by emergency response services to prevent agitation and frustration in individuals hoping to obtain answers via social media.

Unrealized potential. Some disaster management organizations and agencies still do not use social media for crisis communication. Haataja, Laajalahti, and Hyvärinen (2016) suggested that, by ignoring its potential in managing disasters, they are limiting the tools they have to ensure a proper response. One of the prominent examples of a failure to maximize the use of social media during disasters was the Japanese government’s response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Some scholars researching the problem, including White (2014) and Panda (2012), found the use of social media tools as a part of the warning system was mostly ineffective. Panda (2012) wrote that the use of social media was not perfect because “Japan’s heavy bureaucratized system hindered the faster communication of information to people” (p. 64). As a result, lack of information created fear and uncertainty among Japanese citizens, who afterward expressed their hope that the government would not in the future deceive them and contribute to speculation and misinformation in news reports sent around the world (Doan, Vo, & Collier, 2011).

After recognizing that cell phones and landlines were failing, the affected Japanese citizens used social media sites that were up and running. For example, the mayor of Minamisōma, one of the affected towns in the area, filmed a video of a destroyed neighborhood and pleaded for help from the Japanese government. This video has been viewed over 500,000 times on YouTube since it was posted and showed, once again, how effective social media could be in raising the awareness during disasters (White, 2014).

Major Functions of Social Media

Preparedness and Response

The vast majority of the studies on social media’s role in disaster communication was part of a general effort to evaluate the effectiveness of social interaction using hand-held digital devices. As the result, many studies have focused on such aspects as the extent to which people use social networks, how social media interacts with conventional sources of information, how people perceive social media networks and what their communication preferences are, and the potential of these networks for use in disaster situations (Imran et al., 2015). Researchers that addressed the use of social media in crisis response and disaster risk reduction defined several essential functions, including listening, monitoring, integration into emergency planning and crisis management, crowd-sourcing, crafting social cohesion, and research (Alexander, 2014). Each of these functions defines the ways in which social media is studied as a tool for crisis preparedness and response.

A listening function is the first element regarding social media preparedness and response. For example, social media provides an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns and opinions about emergencies and crisis. Before social media, most people did not have this opportunity. Alexander (2014) claimed that social media networks enabled a remarkably democratic form of participation in a national and international debate about disasters and crises. Public agencies responsible for disaster response and communication of information to the population can use concerns expressed on social media to define particular aspects of their mental and emotional state (Johansson, Brynielsson, & Quijano, 2012). Social media allows authorities to listen to the public during emergencies and to collect different output.

The next important function reviewed in the literature is the monitoring function. The primary goal of the monitoring function is to gather information from the public and define ways to manage and improve their reactions. For example, Bird, Ling, and Haynes (2012) claimed that inaccurate and harmful information is often enhanced in social media reports, and can negatively impact the perception of an emergency situation by the public. As a result, the effectiveness of disaster management, as well as the attitude to emergency preparedness by the public could be profoundly affected by inaccurate information on social media (Medford-Davis & Kapur, 2014). To prevent the dissemination of false information, and rumors, appropriate agencies and organizations should use social media to provide an accurate portrayal of emergency preparedness and response (Medford-Davis & Kapur, 2014).

Similarly, integration into emergency planning and management of crisis situations remains a critical element in the future of social media. It is another significant use of social media described in the current body of research. Alexander (2014) asserted that more than 80% of the US general public viewed social media as an appropriate source of information for both government and non-government emergency response organizations. The immense potential of social media to provide helpful information is therefore widely recognized by the public as an opportunity to enhance disaster preparedness and management. The collaborative model of emergency management and communication involving social media is accepted as an appropriate one, instead of strict bureaucratic systems used by many government agencies (Alexander, 2014).

The additional element of preparedness is crowdsourcing and social cohesion. It is crowdsourcing in particular that contributes to creating social cohesion and is the next significant function performed by social media in disaster communication. Given that, in many cases, the first responders are citizens, their contribution to mobilizing leadership and support systems is critical for an adequate response to a crisis. By allowing people to participate in public response, social media fosters a sense of identification with the local and online communities. In many cases, it enhances voluntarism by increasing the readiness and awareness of emergencies in voluntary organizations. One of the most recent examples of how social media was used to mobilize a large number of volunteers occurred in March of 2014, when 2.3 million people “joined the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 by scanning more than 24,000 square kilometers of satellite imagery uploaded to the Tomnod website” (Whittaker, 2015, p. 359).

Scifo and Salman (2015) contended citizens “can be involved in emergencies during both preparation and response phases” (p. 3). Preparedness will not only improve their ability to manage the emergency situation until the arrival of responders but also help to collaborate with them as well. Scifo and Salman conducted a comparative analysis of how social media was used to engage volunteers in several countries and found the following. In Turkey, there were many government agencies and volunteer organizations actively engaged in preparing citizens for disasters using social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Italy had an even more advanced network that included the National Civil Protection Service (NCPS) that featured “2,500 voluntary organizations and 1,300,000 million volunteers, 60,000 of whom can be deployed within a few minutes, and 300,000 in a few hours” (Scifo & Salman, 2015, p. 16). In Germany, there was also a comprehensive network of volunteer organizations that used social media on a regular basis, including the Standing Conference for Disaster Reduction and Civil Protection (SKK), the German Fire Brigades Association (DFV), and the German Committee for Disaster Reduction (DKKV).

Public Expectations of Disaster-Related

Information on Social Media

Current researcher's work was analyzed during the literature search and addressed the topic of public expectations of information related to disasters and emergencies, as provided by responders on social media. Some studies reviewed expectations regarding the types of data, social media use by authorities, and critical infrastructure operators. Petersen, Fallou, Reilly, and Serafinelli (2017) stated that the public expected to be informed about the dangers to their lives and properties at every significant stage of the disaster cycle. These findings were supported by Perko et al. (2014), who studied nuclear emergency preparedness and found that citizens needed to be able to find out about the event that occurred, possible scenarios of how authorities would deal with the situation, and what steps they were required to take to mitigate the risk to themselves and their properties.

Second, there was already a significant body of evidence to claim that the public is turning to social media networks to obtain the latest information from emergency services. In addition to having an active social media account, citizens also expect a quick response if they contact the services via sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This finding suggests the need to have an active social media team to respond to citizens and keep them updated during emergency situations. It also corresponds with the results of Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, and Spielhofer (2016) who suggested that more than 40% of European citizens expected emergency services to provide an answer to their social media inquiries within 1 hour.

Third, in contrast to police departments, in fire departments and other emergency services there remains limited scholarly research exploring public expectations from individual emergency managers during crises (Petersen et al., 2017). People expect as much information as possible, and as fast as possible, but there are more critical areas to address that would improve the use of social media by emergency managers. For example, the influence of factors that include ease of use, personal innovativeness, and access to peers, remains mostly unexplored. Moreover, there is a need to study the relationship between EM demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms to define which ones are more impactful in regards to meeting the expectations of the public and needs of EM personnel concurrently.

Role of Emergency Managers Using Social

Media in Disaster Communication

With the advent of the internet and especially social media, both government and non-government organizations and agencies responsible for public safety, need to adapt to a changing media environment to ensure that credible and trustworthy information is appropriately delivered to maximize the possibility of a successful outcome (Kelly, 2014). If properly utilized, social media can be leveraged to help build trustworthy relationships with the public, coordinate emergency response activities, and establish credibility. Much public information and emergency managers see social media as an additional media channel for distributing their messages to the public (Slagh, 2010). As described by Martini (2014), the public also support the usefulness of social media sites; for example, according to the results of a survey of US adults, 69% of the respondents claimed that “emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites” (p. 2). Thus, respondents have to be aware that people are trying to communicate with them and contribute to disaster management and relief.

Many researchers have investigated the attitude of emergency managers (Hughes, 2014; Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, & Spielhofer, 2016; Shiel, Violanti, & Slusarski, 2011). For example, Hughes sought to understand better how EM personnel engage with social media and found that most of the participants demonstrated a positive attitude toward Twitter and Facebook. Some of the EMs personnel in the Hughes study found the Twitter search functionality useful to find new and critical information about disasters. They stated that one of the most essential advantages of employing social media tools was shortening the response time that allowed disseminating information to the public. The work of Kelly (2014), supports the findings that state EM personnel saw value in social media and agreed that at least one individual should be dedicated to cover every event using social media.

The most striking conclusion of studies on the attitude toward social media conducted in the early 2010s was insufficient understanding of the power of the phenomenon. For example, Shiel, Violanti, and Slusarski (2011), in their survey of fire department public information officers, found that they did not possess an understanding of the universal power of social networks and were “underutilizing it for inappropriate reasons” (p. 65). Among the most common reasons provided by participants in the survey were the lack of training, lack of resources, or inadequate time to complete training. The researchers concluded that social media was not implemented strategically at the departmental level and recommended that fire departments review their disaster communication strategies to add this new and useful tool. They suggested that emergency response agencies have to trust the public on some level to manage emergencies, so more should adopt social media communication.

These findings were supported by the study conducted by Latonero and Shklovski (2011) who interviewed public information officers of the Los Angeles Fire Department. According to the researchers, the extent to which social media is integrated into the organization’s departments depends on the enthusiasm of its members. One of the interviewed officers reported having learned to use social media before the major government agencies incorporated it and even created the first website for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Latonero and Skhlovski (2011) concluded that the do-it-yourself approach was paramount in including social media in disaster communication because the skills developed by that officer allowed him to “develop a reputation and to maintain source credibility” (p. 9).

The current strategy for disaster communication in the Los Angeles Fire Department includes the use of social media by public information officers. Latonero and Shklovski (2011) discovered many examples where the organization leveraged Twitter to monitor and gather information from citizens. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department officers, one method they use to validate the information posted by social media users was personal monitoring of keywords related to crisis. Their perfect vision for the future of social media use by emergency departments involves a sophisticated system in which each citizen is able with sufficient means to transmit information directly to emergency managers. This study (once again) supports a positive attitude of emergency managers toward social media and its ability to improve disaster communication.

More recent studies have demonstrated that the perception, as well as the use of social media by emergency response agencies, is changing. For example, Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, and Spielhofer (2016), who interviewed 761 emergency service staff members across 32 European countries, completed one of the most comprehensive surveys and generated some interesting findings. The researchers discovered that female emergency service staff were “much more open-minded and had a more positive attitude towards social media than their male counterparts” (Reuter et al., 2016, p. 101). Also, the researchers determined that younger service staffs in the sample were more positive towards using social media than those aged 50 and over. Keeping in touch with citizens, sharing information with citizens, and improving the overview of the situation, and therefore increasing situational awareness were the main potential use cases identified in the sample. However, 27% of the sample also reported that they were too busy to analyze the data from social media.

Data about the current organizational use of social media provided by Reuter et al. (2016) painted a different picture. Almost the half of the sample claimed they shared information with the public only ‘sometimes’ (Figure 1). Interestingly, 34% of organizations never had actually shared any information with the public during disasters. Among the EM personnel reporting that their agency did not use social media, several provided a concrete reason: that the broader adoption of social media by emergency response agencies required more time and communication concerning disasters. However, It was well-known that social media use was set aside for state authorities, who might not want to delegate this role.

Current use of social media by emergency services in Europe

Figure 1: Current use of social media by emergency services in Europe. (Reuter et al. (2016)

Challenges Hindering the Use of Social

Media in Disaster Communication

The adoption of a social media strategy for disaster communication is not without some challenges (Hughes, 2014; Latonero & Shklovski, 2011; Spicer, 2013). Emergency responders face many challenges, including increased expectations to provide accurate and timely information, keeping pace with rapid advances in social media, and mounting pressure to consider the use of content generated by the public. Also, the sheer amount of data generated during a crisis event may be overwhelming and present significant challenges for analyses and decision-making (Imran et al., 2015; Roshan et al., 2016). For example, the public created more than 26 million social media messages during Hurricane Sandy, which is far too many for emergency managers to analyze without adequate assistance (Hughes, 2014). Additional challenges come from the lack of understanding about how to communicate via social media during a crisis (Li & Goodchild, 2012).

In spite of the increasing importance of social media in crisis, many researchers emphasized that many organizations still do not fully understand how to use this tool during an emergency (Latonero & Shklovski, 2011; Roshan et al., 2016). The lack of understanding can lead to adverse outcomes, such as mishandling of a crisis or undermining the reputation of the responding organization. Even those organizations seeking to adopt social media face a severe problem: the practical matter of formally incorporating it into emergency management practice. Liability Concerns

The incorporation of social media networks as an information channel in emergency response effort leads to liability concerns (Lindsay, 2011). In case of a disaster, both emergency management action and inaction can result in property damage, injury, and even death, potentially leading to lawsuits against the organization. Therefore, the information dispersed by emergency managers must be accurate, relevant, complete, timely, and must not cause any additional concerns such as violation of citizen privacy (Lindsay, 2011). However, as described above, the amount of information that emergency managers must manage during a crisis can be quite large, so that a complete analysis may be impossible. As a result, it is problematic to determine what information meets all standards and does not cause any ethical and legal concerns. Besides, another potential liability concern emerges with increasing public expectation that an agency will provide an appropriate response through social media to answer numerous requests. Currently, complete monitoring of social media requests and messages is achieved only with the help of advanced technological tools, which are not accessible for some organizations.

Changes in Responsibility and Role

Before the incorporation of social media as a tool for emergency communication with the public, organizations have established response procedures. Houston, Hawthorne, Perreault, Park, Goldstein Hode, Halliwell, and Griffith (2015) stated that EM organizations could effectively operate social media. However, some of the processes and procedures that support emergency response do not lend themselves to it. One of the best examples is an organizational structure that requires emergency managers to obtain approval from the emergency operations center manager or incident commander of their response effort before sending messages to the to the public (Oywang, 2008). The permission obtained whenever sending information to the public reduced the effectiveness of disaster communication. Moreover, some EM personnel may disagree with the position of other managers on the message(s) to the public.

These findings are supported by earlier work from Latonero and Shklovski (2011). They interviewed public information officers in the Los Angeles Fire Department and found there is a vast disconnect between their activities and the organizational support structure within which they worked. Organizationally, they were expected to manage both traditional and social media communication, an overwhelming responsibility. Latonero and Shklovski (2011) provided a quote from one of the officers to illustrate the situation: “We are drowning in data down here, and we’re thirsting for knowledge, just like the people” (p. 12). The scholars concluded that the leadership of the Los Angeles Fire Department might not have fully grasped the value of social media for assisting the daily activities of public information officers and firefighters, nor the volume of work it would require when added to normal operations.

This conclusion supported by the fact that even though the new chief started a Twitter account for the organization, he demonstrated a more conventional approach to public communication. For example, instead of using direct contact with citizens, all discussion was limited to broadcast announcements of events and pointers to crisis information resources (Latonero & Shklovski, 2011). Latonero and Shklovski suggested that the presence of a social media account does not mean a signal of a genuine commitment to its use as a valuable tool.

Trustworthiness of Citizen-Generated Data

Citizens tend to create vast amounts of data during a crisis, including videos, texts, and images. Each information piece carries a particular message and illustrates the opinion of that person on the disaster response effort and disaster severity. When deciding whether to act or not to act on these messages, emergency managers must assess the credibility of the information generated by the public. Despite the production of information on social media, studies have found that most of the citizen-generated data is self-regulated, meaning that other community members will correct it because of doubts (Peterson, 2014). To define which citizen-generated information sensed as the most accurate, Starbird and Palen (2010) conducted a study that explored the role of social media messages that are re-shared by other users. Results showed that Twitter messages that were re-tweeted by many people tended to correspond with the accurate information and were perceived as reliable by the viewers.

Reliability of Social Media Networks

A significant limitation of the use of social media by the public during a crisis is the dependence upon the digital infrastructure. Severe disasters such as a tornado or flood may profoundly damage the power network, thus preventing the use of social media in the affected area. Peterson (2014) stated that citizens outside the affected area would help the victims of the disaster to discover news and developments when the infrastructure comes back online. As a result, the affected individuals can receive all information from emergency responders while still deprived of other means of communication, such as broadcast television and land-line telephones. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, affected individuals accessed the Internet to receive information long before land-line phone and television infrastructures were restored (Kaigo, 2012).

Kaigo (2012) reported the number of tweets on Twitter increased sharply after the disaster occurred. To analyze how the public used the network, the researchers conducted a content analysis of tweets and retweets from the Information Policy Department Twitter account. All terms that construct meaning were extracted from the tweets and were categorized to formulate familiar concepts. Kaigo et al. (2012) differentiated some categories, including transportation, calling out to people, terms indicating the present situation, information on water supply, information on electricity, expressions of gratitude, and expressions of cooperation. These categories represent the most common themes used by emergency services to communicate with the public.

The reliability of social media and its impact on crisis situations is still reliant on many of underlying factors, suggested Gray, Weal, and Martin (2016).The first factor is the accessibility of the internet, and it is excluded often from existing conceptual frameworks. The effectiveness of online disaster management strategies is reduced dramatically when the affected population does not have access to social media (Smith, 2012). Many scholars now consider accessibility to both online and offline information as a critical factor in decreasing risk posed by a disaster (Blaikie, Cannon, Davis, & Wisner, 2014). Despite increasing global connectivity to the internet, many factors can affect the access to the web, including lack of power, and poor coverage. Some social factors such as economic standing, social class, race, and gender can play significant roles as well (Gray et al., 2016).

The second factor suggested by Gray et al. (2016) is the reliability of online information created by the public on the internet, which can shape an incorrect perception of a situation. Indeed, information reliability is a significant concern for risk reduction in emergency situations and relies on many factors (Mendoza, Poblete, & Castillo, 2010). For example, many individuals posting information on social media are not considered credible by the internet audience, which makes determining reliable information sources unclear and confusing. This situation is well known during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster when some anonymous accounts disseminated incorrect information (Thomson, Ito, Suda, Lin, Liu, Hayasaka, & Wang, 2012). This situation created a need to place a link to the source of information in the social media message to ensure that it could be traced to determine if the provider was reliable (Figueroa, 2013).

Social Media Enters the Emergency Scene

In the recent decade, social media networks played a significant role in all emergency situations and significant disasters faced by American society (Derani & Naidu, 2016). One of the latest prominent examples of the impact of social media in disaster communication occurred after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Case study: The 2013Bostonmarathon bombing. The explosions of homemade bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon were heard in every American home and all over the world. The deliberate attack that claimed three lives and injured hundreds of others was characterized by widespread attention to social media (Peterson, 2014). Successful use of social media by the Boston Police Department was studied by law enforcement agencies in the US and scholars because it represented some important lessons in disaster communication. For example, the Boston Police Department's use of social networks showed that the law enforcement viewed them as a way to take community policing into the digital age and emphasize the deep connection with the community (Davis III, Alves, & Sklansky, 2014). A case study released by the Boston Police Department described many lessons that could be used to improve the incorporation of social media into disaster management and communication.

First, the immediate response by law enforcement using Twitter played a profound role in providing the public with accurate and complete information, and prevented false reports from affecting the public reaction to disaster management (Davis III, Alves, & Sklansky, 2014). The Boston Police Department Media Relations Office representatives, Commissioner Davis, instructed them to use social media about 10 minutes after the detonations by saying: “I need somebody up there to get on social media and let people know what we’re doing here” (Davis III, Alves, & Sklansky, 2014, p. 3). As a result, the official Twitter account of the Boston Police Department became one of the first reliable sources for information on the situation, as it sent a tweet confirming the explosion within an hour after the bombs went off. The first and the subsequent tweets rapidly became the most trusted source of information about the status of the official investigation and were shared tens of thousands of times by both American and foreign Twitter users.

The second vital lessons included the active correction of inaccurate information and constant updates about the progress of the official investigation. For example, several days after the event, reputable news agencies, including CNN, reported via social media that there was an arrest made. The tweets containing this report were re-tweeted thousands of times, which suggested an increased interest of the public in receiving updates via social media (Sutton, Gibson, Spiro, League, Fitzhugh, & Butts, 2015). However, the report contained inaccurate information at the time because there was no suspect arrested.

Shortly after the story appeared on social media, the Boston Police Department responded promptly using Twitter and informed the public about the false information. Only after the real suspects were identify did the Boston Police Department again turn to Twitter, posting their photos and videos to update the public on the progress of the investigation. The overall effectiveness of the Boston Police Department's use of social media during the disaster demonstrated the fact that the number of followers of the department increased by more than 40,000 after the tragedy occurred. Creative use of social media by the Boston Police Department suggested new possibilities for public engagement in the future and defined appropriate methods of disaster communication.

Synthesis of the Research Findings

The current situation regarding social media in disasters and risk communication shows that many governments and non-government emergency responders are increasingly adopting it in their communication strategies (Reuter et al., 2016). According to the studies reviewed above, social media plays some critical functions, including listening, monitoring, creating social cohesion, crowdsourcing, and integration into emergency planning and management strategies (Sellnow et al., 2017). All of them support the influence of the existing public-side of information production and distribution.

As a natural outcome of the growing use of social media among members of the public, it is clear that previously used disaster communication models are changing to incorporate this essential element (Oywang, 2008). Many emergency managers have already recognized the potential of social media to provide accurate information and correct misleading data, so the change is inevitable. The production of social media messages should be sufficiently compelling to produce desirable outcomes, such as self-protective activities. Many studies have supported the IDEA model for crafting such words, so it should be utilized as a strategy to improve disaster communication with the public (Sellnow et al., 2017).

From the literature review, the study concluded that EM personnel display increasing interest in social media as a useful tool for disaster communication, and many organizations have specific guidelines regarding its use. For example, one organization uses it for sending one-way messages to the public and for monitoring and responding to posts created by citizens. The control and evaluating of the citizen-generated information is considered a “listening” activity that leverages the interactive two-way nature of social media platforms. The IDEA model can advance the guidelines about social media use because it ensures messages are designed, with the receivers in mind; in other words, the primary purpose of the communication is to satisfy specific informational needs of the public during emergency situations. There are. However, many essential barriers hindering the use of this innovation.

Although inevitable, the incorporation of social media into disaster communication strategies faces some crucial concerns. As described in the reviewed literature, it demands changes in established disaster response procedures and the roles of various emergency managers. Moreover, many organizations view citizen-generated content as mostly unreliable and unsupported. Only messages that received reactions, such as shares and likes from hundreds and thousands of people, were considered relatively trustworthy by surveys of social media users. On the other hand, the organizations that embraced the power of social media to inform the public, such as Boston Police Department, were able to demonstrate how it can be used to supply reliable information and correct misleading information distributed by news agencies.

The literature analysis also revealed that emergency managers predominantly shared a positive attitude towards the use of social media as a disaster communication strategy (Hughes, 2014; Latonero & Shklovski, 2011; Reuter et al.; 2016). Given that many of them use social media to communicate with their family and friends, they recognize the potential of this tool in emergencies. However, many emergency responders still do not utilize it to communicate with the public during crises because of some barriers, including liability concerns, the reliability of citizen-generated data, and internal structures. The public has also supported the usefulness of social media sites and claimed that emergency managers should be monitoring them to obtain a clear picture of the way the people perceive a disaster. Moreover, the literature also confirmed that many users of social media are using it to communicate with government agencies, especially during crises.

The literature reviewed in the previous section concentrated on the following themes:

  1. How social media functions and how it can be used (Peterson, 2014; Roshan et al., 2016).
  2. The extent to which the public use social media, how they perceive it, and what their communication preferences are (Sellnow et al., 2017; Velev & Zlateva, 2012).
  3. How social media sites are used in crises (Collins et al., 2016; Donahue et al., 2012; Barry et al., 2013; Panda, 2012; White, 2014).
  4. The attitude of EM personnel regarding social media (Hughes, 2014; Latonero & Shklovski, 2011; Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, & Spielhofer, 2016; Shiel, Violanti, & Slusarski, 2011.
  5. The barriers that are hindering a meaningful use of social media during disasters and for the purposes, such as informing the public (Hughes, 2014; Latonero & Shklovski, 2011; Li & Goodchild, 2012; Spicer, 2013).

The literature revealed that one of the gaps that hinder effective disaster communication is the lack of goodwill, interest, and determination to embrace and use social media platforms optimally by EMs personnel. Therefore, results of this study may advance a growing body of literature about the importance of social media in crisis communication and the role of emergency managers in incorporating the new technology to meet public demand for information. Given the need to continue to study the impact of social media for disaster relief and communication with the public, the results of this study may provide useful information for emergency response agencies. Moreover, evidence of the relationship between the characteristics of emergency managers as well as organizational barriers hindering their use of social media during emergency situations remains mostly unexplored.

Female emergency service staff are currently known to be more open-minded about the use of social media than their male counterparts, and that many emergency managers share a positive attitude toward the new tool. Also, studying the patterns of the use of social media in emergency departments may reveal the way their respective organizations support individuals responsible for this task. These findings may explain some issues and help to produce meaningful solutions. By conducting the present study, it was possible to advance the current literature and reveal some specific factors that influence the effectiveness of the use of social media during crises and its overall impact.

Critique of Previous Research Methods

The literature provided in this chapter included only peer-reviewed resources and government publications to ensure high quality and reliability of the literature review. It is the main strength of the literature provided in this chapter. Indeed, an appropriate methodology is one of the main factors that influence the quality of a scientific study. For example, many studies reviewing the various aspects that illustrate the impact of social media on disaster communication obtained information directly from emergency staff. These study designs were undoubtedly appropriate for investigating this topic. However, the survey questions are the selected data collection tool for the present study. Reuter et al. (2016) examined the attitude towards social media using both quantitative and qualitative surveys of 761 emergency service staff across 32 European countries. As a result, the researchers were able to provide comprehensive results and propose meaningful enhancements of the emergency management cycle using social media. Based on these observations, a quantitative method with a correlational design was deemed appropriate for the present study.

Limitations of many studies were a reflection of the newness of this study field. Indeed, social media as a tool for disaster communication has attracted the attention of scholars only in the recent decade, so methodologies for collecting and analyzing this kind of information, although effective, are still evolving (Vieweg, Hughes, Starbird, & Palen, 2010). The first significant limitation of many studies reviewed was a relatively small sample of participants. The sample sizes in the research by Latonero and Shklansky (2011), Roshan et al. (2016), and others were limited to one department in a disaster management organization. Therefore, for the present study, an Internet-based questionnaire was selected to ensure a large sample size. Also, Imran et al. (2015), Hughes (2014), and many studies reviewing the barriers to social media discovered some problems that need re-examining. According to these studies, emergency managers had no tools to manage the volume of disaster-related information posted on social media, but numerous tools for a comprehensive analysis have been developed in recent years, so the present study is necessary to revisit this aspect to obtain the best possible information.

The review also revealed that the area of EM characteristics, and their relation to the use of social media, is significantly limited. At this point, scholars have determined that many factors are in need of further evaluation. First, they found that female EM personnel shared a more positive attitude towards the use of social media for crisis communication than men. Second, they saw that enthusiasm for particular EM personnel could advance the incorporation and effectiveness of the use of social media. Third, the literature reflected the fact that many emergency departments that have social media accounts still have a more conventional view of it and limit the communication to one-way messages and announcements. Personal innovativeness plays a critical role in the advancement of social media in emergency departments, so it was examined further in the present study.

Having analyzed the findings of the current body of literature, it became clear that the scientific research needed to move the topic of social media use during crisis to exploring to what extent there is a statistically significant relationship (a ) between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community, (b) between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following factors: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers, and between (c) EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, location, and use of social media platforms. In addition to these essential areas, the present study is intended to reveal the role that social media plays in advancing the profession of EM.

Summary

The purpose of this literature review was to examine the current body of empirical evidence about the impact of social media during emergencies. Clearly, social behavior, which is made possible through the existence of social media, is demanding a new exploration of the way the public consumes information distribution during emergencies. The attention of scholars to social media as a tool for communication has increased over the recent decade, but various subtopics involving emergency managers remain mostly unexplored. For example, the main focus of the research involving emergency service staff has been on their attitudes toward social media and its use during disasters. It is, therefore, necessary to take the next step and explore the relationship between the application of social media in hazard and risk communication and the following factors: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers. Exploring the extent to which social media is used in risk and disaster communication in 2017 will enhance the empirical knowledge in this area.

CHAPTER3: METHODOLOGY

This section provides relevant information about the research methodology that was adopted to conduct the study. Appropriate methods were selected based on the topic under discussion that focused on examining the impact of particular media in the management of disaster communication. First, a quantitative research design provided significant incentives for the realization of in-depth information about the issue under discussion. Data collection was implemented using two methods of data gathering: primary and secondary. A sample of 82 respondents constituted the sample size from whom primary data collection was through the auspices of online SurveyMonkey®. The methodology allowed the researcher to obtain first hand, accurate information about how the application of social media affects disaster management/communication. Print materials such as books, magazines, and journals were used as secondary data collection sources. Only relevant information was used from the print materials.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Research questions and hypotheses provide the researcher with the direction of the research effort (Prasad, Rao, & Rehani, 2017). Prasad et al. (2017) asserted that hypotheses are used to enable the researcher to set or formulate survey questions that assist in deriving the predicted outcome or results. For this study, questions to be answered were as follows:

RQ1. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals' use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community?

Ho1: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM professionals' use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community.

Ha1: There is a statistically significant relationship between EM professional’s use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community.

RQ2. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers?

Ho2: There is no statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

Ha2: There is a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

RQ3. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms?

Ho3: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms.

Ha3: There is a statistically significant relationship between the EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms.

In each case, the hypotheses were used to measure the relationship between two variables (Farrugia et al., 2010) that included the use of social media forms and other platforms, the application of social media in disaster management, and ease of access or usefulness of the information and EM demographics and social media services.

Research Design

For this study, a quantitative research method (non-experimental) with a correlational design was adopted to facilitate the research process. The selected approach design was appropriate for the research objective, which was to examine the impact of social media on disaster communication (Jang, 2017). The research design selected due to its appropriateness for realizing quality information about the topic (Yin, 2013). The large quantity of data would then allow for exhaustive evaluation of the underlying issues that relate to the subject. The ability to uncover trends in the thoughts and opinions of the participants made the design an appropriate choice. The technique also aided the researcher’s ability to select proper data collection techniques and analysis tools (Yin, 2013).

Advantages of the Approach

  • The first advantage is that the research design allowed the researcher to uncover quality insights and opinions from the selected data collection sources.
  • It enabled the researcher to select relevant sources of information.
  • The technique facilitated in-depth analysis of the topic, thereby producing reliable results.
  • The technique also provided a viable framework for choosing data collection, analysis, and measurement techniques (Jang, 2017).
  • Further, it provided the researcher with alternative data generation techniques such as grounded theory, focus groups, observation among others to select from the start.
  • The technique allowed the researcher to have the full meaning of the data that was made available.

Target Population and Sample

The sample was drawn from the targeted population to provide a reasonable number of responses to the validity of the results. The subpopulation used because of the complexity and impossibility to poll or interview the entire group. The sample population was a reflection of the demographics of the target population. As noted by Mack (2018), any researcher must get the target population correct to avoid possible inconsistencies that may hinder the realization of quality results. The people considered must have an interest in the area of the study. For instance, the targeted population for this study was base on clear parameters that narrowed it down to the emergency managers only. The demographics identified because they were directly or indirectly affected by the outcome of social media usage.

In particular, the target population that was preferred by the researcher were EM personnel who used various social media platforms to frequently coordinate disaster management. The target population determined by their role in information sharing about a given disaster with the aim of deciding realistic solutions (Lavrakas, 2011). From the demographics, the sample size was drawn to narrow the research to a specific group. The group comprised of 82 respondents who have direct interactions with social media and disaster or risk communication. The number of the respondents based on the results from the sample size calculator.

Social Media Users

The rationale for disclosing or entering into discussions for the methodology used for selecting the respondents, which include disaster managers and social media users, was to enable readers, including other stakeholders, to establish the credibility of the results. Social media users were the people whose actions concerning information sharing affect the quality expected, whether they were part of the management team or not. They were the people who influenced the quality of disaster communication and were the key and first witnesses of disasters. Their ability to use social media platforms and proximity to the incident scenes made them critical partners in the disaster communication chain (Daniel, 2012).

The technique of information sharing always presents negative or positive impacts. The negative implications are realized when people contribute to distorting messages or focus on spreading falsehoods. Some do not realize that what they post on Facebook and other platforms when a disaster strike has a way of impacting the overall outcome or management of the disaster.

It was prudent for the researcher to establish why these individuals behave unethically when information handling. It is also meant to assist in sensitizing them about the need to adhere to the ethical standards of communication that require responsibility and accountability, including their role in the process. Similarly, they were made aware of the danger that looms when information is shared recklessly, particularly at times of disaster (Dutta, 2010). Social media users, both within the public and disaster management teams, should understand that what they post impacts people differently. Some people become traumatized, depressed, and psychologically impaired when they see offensive posts or pictures on social media. They should also understand that effective communication between them enhances the quality of disaster management and the speed of the response.

Disaster Managers

EM personnel was selected to participate in the study because of their essential role in the process of risk management. They are the people who play a central role in providing pre- and post-risk exposure rescue services. They handle victims of disasters and always strive to restore the feelings of hurting individuals. Due to their significant role for the resolution of a crisis, they must be made aware that what they post or how they use the social media affect other people’s feelings differently. They should also know that they have a responsibility to communicate responsibly and share the right information at the right time and to the right people. They need to be professional in their approach to issues relating to disasters. For instance, they should not share scary information on social media because of the negative impact that they may cause. Above all, they should provide direct helplines that can be used to reach them when a disaster occurs.

Daniel (2012) recommended that disaster management teams create effective and clear communication channels to link them with other stakeholders. The move is necessary to ensure they are in constant communication with other responders. It would help them in being notified about imminent attacks or various areas of danger that, in turn, facilitate their preparedness. The communication channels are also important because they assist in the communication of multiple measures that are taken to manage the crises of any nature.

Population

The population of a study is essential in any research work (Lavrakas, 2011). The researcher considered various focus groups within the community recognized for participation in the study. In this regard, US citizens adopted as the population for study. Within the people, the researcher identified relevant focus groups to narrow the investigation to manageable levels. The focus group was the emergency managers active at the International Association of Emergency Managers online platform (iaem.org), with a total population of 103 (IAEM, 2017).

Sample

A sample is part of a population that is drawn to facilitate a research activity (Sargeant, 2012). The sample for this study was made up of convenience-selected individuals from the IAEM. It constituted individuals with relevant information about the topic under investigation (Sargeant, 2012). The sample size drawn for this study was (N = 82 people) that are members of disaster management teams or emergency managers from the IAEM. The sample was used to gather information regarding the topic of discussion.

The Raosoft sample size calculator from raosoft.com was used to calculate and project an adequate population that makes the research reliable. The confidence interval supported that the selected sample would provide reliable results with a margin of 0.05, relating to errors that emanate from the survey. The response distribution leveraged at 50% with substantial portions subjected to critical analysis and correctness validation. The sample population was 304 people initially considered for participation. Participants totaled 9% of the total population that met the desired criteria. The criteria were focused on integrating people who were registered emergency managers. From the total population, the sample selection concentrated on people with IAEM registered members. Only 82 participants met the required criteria and integrated into the research study.

Power Analysis

Power analysis is an essential element of studies that are base on experimental designs. It is necessary essential because it permits the researcher to determine the right sample size required to detect the effects of a sample within a given degree of confidence. The analysis criteria uses the formula:

Power =1 – P (Type II error) = probability of getting or finding an existing effect.

As noted by Daniel (2012), performing a power analysis is an essential aspect of any experimental design because, without the study, including calculation of the sample size, the sample selected may be too high or low. The researcher took into consideration all the power analysis and sample size estimation factors. A proper experimental design put into place with a useful calculation mechanism to ensure that the sample sizes managed within the sustainable limits. The rationale was to avert a case in which the sample size would be too large or small. The researcher also used various power analysis software, including selected graphical and analytical tools, to guarantee the realization of a reasonable sample size. The approach enabled the researcher to design a process that was highly cost-effective and useful scientifically.

The formula used was:

Power = Pr (reject Ho, H1 is true)

Where H1 is not an equality, but a negation of Ho (example Ho: u = 0 while for unobserved population parameter u. It is denoted by H1: u = 0

For correlations:

Pwr. r. test (n=, r=, sig. level =, power =)

Where n is the sample size R is the correlation.

The population correlation coefficient used as the effect of the size measure.

Cohen suggested that r values of 0.1, 0.3 and 0.5 representing small, medium, and large sizes of effect respectively.

Procedures

For this study, a precise sequence of operation undertaken. The first step involved the identification of the discussion topic. The existing knowledge gap in society, which in this case concerned an understanding of how social media impacts disaster communication informed the process. The next step involved the formulation of the research objectives and questions. The goals were meant to help understand the topic at greater depth while the problems were based on the identified purposes. The identification of the research methodology followed. At this level, the researcher established various elements that steered the study to its logical conclusion.

The first element identified as the research design technique and a quantitative research design was adopted. The data collection technique also recognized at this stage, and the use of survey was embraced as a primary source of information, while print materials were adopted as secondary data collection techniques. The next step entailed data measurement, instrumentation, and data analysis. The analyzed information presented as the result of the study. This stage followed by a detailed discussion of the results, recommendation, and conclusion. Every activity was scheduled professionally to eliminate time waste, which frequently hinders research activities.

Participant selection. For this research, the participant selection process was based on the following factors: the ability to use social media platforms and their participation in disaster management. According to Butera and Autin (2016), poor selection of participants is costly because the results obtained may not be accurate and hence, may not support effective decision making on diverse issues. Due to this, every effort should be in place to ensure that the right participants are involved in the study from the beginning.

Protection the participants. Protection of participants is a concept that is grounded in ethical and moral values. Ethics demand the keeping of participant information in absolute privacy (Plumper, 2017). Researchers have a moral responsibility to do everything effectively without breaching privacy standards that are in place (Midgley & Baguley, 2013). The participant’s names should remain confidential to safeguard reputations.

For this study, the researcher upheld ethical requirements by protecting the participant’s personal data. None of the participant’s information was accessible to third parties, as required. Their right to privacy was highly respected to guarantee sustained integrity and a good reputation (Jang, 2017). This aspect justifies the reason why the study is regarded a success by the participants and other players. They affirm that relevant guidelines and procedures embraced ensured the positive reputation.

Data Collection

This study was quantitative in nature because the researcher was keen to get quantity information about the impact of social media on the disaster communication. For that reason, the study adopted a quantitative research approach to promoting the realization of exhaustive and quality results (Rasouli & Timmermans, 2014). To be successful in conducting this study, the quantity of data was a priority at all levels. The researcher selected both primary and secondary data collection techniques that had a specific scope. In particular, the primary data collection technique was the use of SurveyMonkey®. The identified print materials used as a secondary data collection technique. It ensures that no wasted time on irrelevant articles. The print materials included journals, books, and magazines, selected in consideration of their relevance and the quality of information they hold that touched the topic.
Advantages of the online SurveyMonkey® were:
  • The data collection technique allows the researcher to obtain first-hand information.
  • It promotes credibly and reliability of the information.
  • It gives the researcher the opportunity to interact with the participants or respondents.
  • The data collected using the technique is recent, and this allows the information to factor the changes that may be evident or have occurred within the environment.
  • The technique also allows the researcher to have the opportunity to target specific issues exhaustively.
Disadvantages of the online SurveyMonkey®:
  • The process may attract high costs, given that it may require the involvement of short and long-term employees to assist in executing the data collection process.
  • The process is time-consuming because it involves first-hand observation, administration of surveys and distribution of questionnaires.
  • It is limited to the selected participants, allocated time and the place of study as compared to secondary data collection technique.
Advantages of Secondary Data Collection Technique
  • The technique saves time.
  • The technique is economical, lowering expenses and effort.
  • It helps make the primary data collection more specific.
  • It provides the researcher with the opportunity to understand the problem better.
  • The technique also provides a credible basis for data comparison.
Disadvantages
  • The accuracy of the data collected is not known.
  • The information may be outdated.
  • It may fail to fit in the framework of qualitative research, which is evident in marketing research activities.

Data Analysis

Cuesta (2016) indicated that researchers must select useful data analysis tools to expedite the process. The devices should be chosen based on the type of data collected and its volume. The researcher in this study considered viable data analysis techniques that included the use of SPSS (regression analysis). The method is anchored on predictive analytics facilitating the analysis process (McKinney, 2012). Before analyzing the data, a review made of the collected information was measured for completeness, accuracy, and credibility. The researcher did this to guarantee consistency, validity, and reliability of the results. The move fostered the systematic elimination of the unwanted information, thereby enhancing the quality of the information (McKinney, 2012). Data integration that was linked to data visualization and dissemination followed the process. The strategy was to ensure effective revelation of the qualitative aspect of the information.

In this study, both manual and electronic processes were used to conduct the data analysis. The two methods were applied because the collected data was in theoretical and statistical forms (Brandt, n.d.). The manual system was primarily used to analyze the academic data while the statistical information was analyzed using a computerized system. The approach is considered useful in all aspects.

Instruments

The researcher adopted the use of surveys, flowcharts, rating scales, questionnaires, personality inventories, and protective devices. The devices were applicable because the participants could administer them as the researcher interpreted them. The validity and reliability of the instruments were evident from the results obtained after the process (O’Dwyer & Bernauer, 2013).

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations are critical in any research study. These considerations affect the way the researcher conducts business and the integrity of the results that obtained from a survey. For this study, the researcher adopted ethical concerns that were very strict. The move helped to ensure that every activity was conducted as required and in adherence to the quality standards. For example, data collection made with no form of falsification or fabrication. Data obtained from the respondents and other identified sources of information. The considerations allowed the researcher to operate in an environment of trust, truth, mutual respect, and accountability. The elements have contributed to ensuring that data sharing, co-authorship, and confidentiality of the information upheld.

Strict standards gave rise to close collaboration between the researcher and the respondents. The strong belief in the study’s credibility is attributable to the understanding of strict compliance with guidelines and the law, conflicts of interest were absent and standards not ignored. Other factors instrumental in the researcher’s success included good treatment of the participants given they were not subjected to any harm, respect for their dignity at all times, and getting consent before engaging them (Dutta, 2010). A high level of confidentiality and proper communication with the stakeholders formed additional factors that promoted successful execution of the study.

Summary

Research methodology is an integral part of any study whether exploratory, qualitative, quantitative, or experimental. It forms the backbone of the entire process because it defines all the activities. The selected methods provide clear-cut guidelines through which participants in the study engaged. The methodology must be able to support accountability, integrity, trust, inclusivity, respect, and a scientific system of analysis. The method also could facilitate useful sampling of the participants, identification of the target population, data collection, and instrumentation.

The researcher complied with all the procedures required for a successful study. From the topic formulation, identification of objectives, research questions to a selection of research methodology and performance of research analysis towards concluding, a clear framework was followed out. This initiative ensured proper execution of every activity at the right time and in the right way. Davino and Fabbris (n.d.) noted effective procedures reduce the level of risks associated with research studies. Similarly, a clear protection policy framework was adopted. The protection policy helped to uphold the privacy standards relating to participants identity, the reason for participation, personal views, and lifestyles.

Concerning data collection, the researcher recognized that the quantity of the study was dependent on how information was recorded and the type of information. Due to this, both primary and secondary data collection techniques were in use. Interviews or quantity surveys used as the fundamental data collection techniques. Open- and closed-ended questions presented to the participants who were convenience selected for the study. Print materials used as a secondary research technique. The documents were chosen carefully for pertinent information about the topic. The following chapter contains the results of the study.

CHAPTER 4: RESULTS

This section summarizes the sample used to research disaster communication and provides analysis of the data obtained. The study addresses the research questions, themes, and the hypotheses. The survey results are based on the direct responses from the selected respondents. The details of the results reflect the feelings of people related to how the application of social media influences disaster communication. Print materials were based on empirical studies conducted on the topic under investigation.

Study Sample

The researcher surveyed participants through the auspices of Survey Monkey®, which was implemented to survey 82 respondents. The process was successful because the response rate was 93.9%. Seventy-seven of the 82 respondents who undertook the survey questionnaire provided feedback. Most of the survey questions were responded except for a few cases where the respondents did not respond to all the problems. Out of the 77 positive responses, 47 were from men and 30 responses were from women; 5 who recorded adverse reaction were composed of three men and two women responders (Table 2).

Table 2

Demographic Information about Participants: 47 Male, 30 Females Recorded Positive Response While 5 Failed. .

_____________________________________________________________________________

Male 47

Female 30

Missed 5

Total 82

Table 3 provides the breakdown of the response rates both in numbers and in percentages. The table is segmented as shown to allow the reader to establish the number of male and female participants. It also shows those who responded positively and negatively.

Table 3

Sampled Participants Response Rate both in Numbers and Percentage

Category

Male

%

Female

%

Total

%

Number sampled

50

60.5%

32

39.5%

82

100%

Positive Response rate

47

57.3%

30

36.6%

77

93.9%

Negative response

3

3.2%

2

2.9%

5

6.1%

Figure 3 provides a graphical representation of the respondents regarding gender. The response rates presented as absolute values and percentages. The table applies to the research because it gives credible information about the response rate as it’s established. It creates awareness about the number of male and female respondents who participated positively or negatively, and the general response across all spheres. The researcher and stakeholders can place significance on the data because it helps to determine the credibility of the study and research findings.

Figure 3. Graphical representation of the respondents regarding gender:

Graphical representation of the respondents regarding gender

Figure 3. Graphical representation of the respondents concerning gender: It captures both female and male respondents.

Figure 3 is a presentation of the response rate regarding male and female respondents. It provides a clear picture of the number of women and men who participated in the study. The data reflected that male respondents numbered 50, while female participants numbered 32. The figure applies to the research because it provides the discourse with a picture of the target pool of respondents and shows that both sexes represented.

Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis testing was based on the research questions and associated hypotheses. The trial testing was intended to establish the validity and accuracy of the assumptions generated by the researcher and based on the research questions. The idea was to determine whether the predictions made regarding the outcome of the study were met or not. The testing involved an elaborate process that included a detailed evaluation of the data collected from the primary and secondary sources of information. It was a significant undertaking because provided an opportunity for the researcher to know if the research design was correct as adopted, or if other procedures might have been more relevant for the study.

Summary of the Results

This section summarizes the sample used to research disaster communication and provides analysis of the data obtained. The study addresses the research questions, themes, and the hypotheses

RQ1: To what extent do EM professionals use different forms of social media to share and exchange crisis information with other EM professionals?

Themes: The extent to which the public and EM professionals use social media, how they perceive it, and the preferred mode of communication.

Ho1: The null hypothesis rejected.

Ha1: The alternative hypothesis was accepted.

RQ2: Is there a relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communication and ease of use, usefulness, personal innovativeness, access to peers, and barriers.

Themes: How social media sites used in crisis management, and the attitude of EM professionals regarding social media

Ho2: The null hypothesis rejected.

Ha2: The alternate hypothesis was accepted

RQ3: Is there a relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms?

Themes: Use of social media during a disaster, the purpose of informing the public, and

Barriers hindering the meaningful use of social media

Ho3: The null hypothesis rejected.

Ha3: The alternate hypothesis was accepted.

RQ1 Results

RQ1 queried to what extent EM professionals use different forms of social media to share and exchange crisis information with other EM professionals.

For the question concerning the extent to which EM professionals currently use different forms of social media to share and exchange crisis information with other professionals, the respondents indicated that now, the majority of professionals mostly use social media platforms. They affirmed that the advent of technology, which is giving rise to various social media platforms that aid communication, has revolutionized how professionals share information. The extent significantly based on the high number of people who stated that they use media platforms to interact with one another. They are affirmed in Table 4 and Figure 4.

Table 4 shows the response rate in regards to the extent that EM professionals use different forms of social media to share information with other professionals. In a scale of 1 to 10, 20 respondents indicated that the rate stands between zeros to five while, 50 reported indicated 6 to 10 while seven respondents remained neutral on the matter. These responses show that the extent by which social media is used to share information between EM professionals is excellent and the intent to use the platforms further is a high likelihood. The table applies to the research study because the findings create credible insight into the extent of social media use among EM professionals.

Table 4

Demographic Response on the Extent of Social Media use Between EM Professionals

Scale n

0-5 20

6-10 50

Neutral 7

Total 77

The figure below presents a graphical representation of the response rate captured in Table 4, which depicts the extent to which social media platforms are used among EM professionals. The table is relevant to the research because one of the objectives was to establish the area to which EM professionals use social media. The data support the hypothesis that social media platforms are currently in use.

Response on the extent of social media use between EM professionals

Figure 4. Response on the extent of social media use between EM professionals. The graph applies to the study because it enables readers to observe the conclusive findings established.

The demographic response rate shown in Figure 4 and Table 4 affirms EM professional’s viewpoints that the media platforms provide effective and efficient communication systems that organizations need. Such platforms enable information sharing to be faster and timely among stakeholders. Due to this, they prefer communicating through social media platforms to ensure that reports during disasters and requests for help from victims receive in good time. The statements of over 50 EM professionals, as shown in Table 4, shows they prefer social media as a useful platform for disaster information or preventive measure communications. They are interested in this because the response period determines the level of damage and loss encountered. When communication cannot be effective, it means the response could be delayed and the administration of necessary services will not be on time, thus curtail progress towards solutions (Gurion, 2015). The media platforms help people report disasters quickly and effectively. The figure applies to the research because it gives credence to the study objective by allowing the stakeholders to understand the vitality of the social media in disaster communication.

Some of the examples in which the media platforms, such as Twitter, have been used, including the case with Hurricane Harvey, in which Facebook was highly used, and Tennessee’s wildfire, in which Twitter assisted in communicating the incident and its development in real time. On the other hand, the respondents affirmed the importance of scope in emergency management. The extent relates to the number of social media platforms that are used to foster disaster communication. The majority of the respondents, also evident in Table 4, indicated that the scope of the platform is crucial because it increases the likelihood of information sharing from all parts of a region or nation, which ranged from remote to urban areas.

In some settings, the use of social media is limited to specific platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, while in others all the available platforms were cited as being used. The trend affects quality, speed, and awareness regarding the incidences that occur in different locations (Gurion, 2015). When the use of media platforms is limited, disaster communication may not be valid because some occurrences happen where access to the allowable media platforms is not available. This aspect compromises the extent of exploration and usage of communication platforms as well as the ability to access data from a wider region. The results obtained (as shown in the tables) supports facts presented about the relevance and extent to which social media platforms are used, perceived, and reasons for their preference among EM professionals and the public.

Table 5 below shows the descriptive statistics of the response rate against the total sample size. The results associated with RQ1. The table is relevant to the research given it provides clear mean and standard deviation values that measure the quality of the findings.

Table 5

The descriptive Statistics of the Response Rate against the Total Sample Size.

descriptive Statistics of the Response Rate against the Total Sample Size

From the table, the mean factor and standard deviation of several variables that include age, ease of use, and gender among others are noted. The positive mean and standard deviations reveal the positive response rate on the question that characterized the extent to which social media platforms are in use among the EM professionals.

The number of social media platforms that are used influences the extent of information sharing. The entities that use nearly all the available platforms stand a better chance of receiving information while interacting with many people. Results in Table 5 and 6, and including Figure 4, support Ho1, which states that there is no statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community, accepted. The alternative hypothesis, Ha1, which states that there is a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and pertinent members of the community, was rejected.

RQ2 Results

RQ2 queried if there is a relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communication and ease of use, usefulness, personal innovativeness, access to peers, and barriers. Results confirm there is a deep relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communication and ease of use, usefulness, personal innovativeness, and access to peers, including barriers. Although mixed reactions obtained, over 68 respondents affirmed the notion, while 9 of the respondents expressed reservations. They are shown in Table 6 and Figure 5 below.

Table 6

The relationship between the Application of Social Media in Disaster Communication and Ease of Use. The table applies positively to the research by giving an outright indication that the use of social media in communication has a significant relationship to the ease of use.

Response

Rate

Yes

68

No

0

Not Sure

9

It is evident from the data captured that puts yes response rate at 68 respondents, against nil response rate for No, while Undecided respondents were 9.

Response rate chart on the relationship between the application of social media in disaster communication

Figure 5. Response rate chart on the relationship between the application of social media in disaster communication and ease of use. It applies to the study because it helps in explaining the findings.

Table 7 provides credible data about how the respondents feel regarding the level of attachment and scope of social media usage among the elderly and youth.

Table 7

The scope of Relationship among Older People and Youth

Response

Older people

Youths

High

45

69

Low

32

8

77

77

Figure 6.

It applies to the study since the information contained serves one of the primary objectives that relate to the use of social media among the young people. Particularly, Figure 6 provides the high and low rates of the number of young individuals using the media platforms. It is vital to this research study because it helps the users to establish the standard of social media usage among the youths.

The response rate on the ease of use of social media among youths

Figure 6. The response rate on the ease of use of social media among youths.

Figure 7 provides a representation of the actual response rate regarding to the use of social media platforms among adults. This figure helps establish the rate of social media usage among adults.

The response rate among adults about the use of media platforms

Figure 7. The response rate among adults about the use of media platforms. The information is necessary for planning and decision making, hence supporting the relevance of the figure in the study

As depicted in Figure 5, the majority of the respondents affirmed that the application of social media in disaster and risk communication is essential. They felt that social media is transforming the way messages transferred between stakeholders, particularly those touching on the emerging risks. However, differences emerged as the respondents gave varied opinions about the relationship of the application of social media and its ease of use, usefulness, and access by peers among others. There are those who feel there is a deep relationship between the two.

The results in Table 7 indicate that youth are more attached to social media platforms and they use them to share information. They believe that social media platforms, which are used to aid communication in disasters, are user-friendly and easy to access. The majority of phone owners and those with access to computers can easily use the platforms to communicate (Table 8). The platforms are easy to use by their design. They have clear boundaries on sending and receiving buttons that include guidelines on how to post messages. These features make it easy for users to share information effectively. On the other hand, 15 of the respondents believe that the two are not well-related. They hold that social media platforms are not easy to use by the majority of people and that people are still behind when it comes to technology, while others ignore it. Such cases make communication via social media platforms unsuitable to everyone and can thereby compromise connection.

They also argue that the decision to use social media platforms to communicate disaster does not mean it is easy to use. The respondents indicated that it usually is one thing to decide or embrace a concept, but it is another to use it effectively. Similarly, they suggest that the application of social media in disaster communication does not mean that the platforms are useful. Numerous factors qualify social media as being useful for an individual, and these factors vary because of what one values and believes in as they use the platforms (Gurion, 2015).

Figure 8. Access and user friendliness of the social media platforms.

Figure 8. Access and user friendliness of the social media platforms.

Access and user friendliness of the social media platforms

Figure 8. Access and user friendliness of the social media platforms. The data applies to the study because it serves one of the major research objectives.

The reactions were fascinating because they help to communicate the dynamic views and thoughts that people have regarding the use of social media in disaster communication. It also helps to answer the question about the existing relationship between the two elements that have remained contentious over time. From the data collected, it is apparent that different opinions exist on the matter. However, the majority of the respondents agreed that the application of social media is well suited for ease of use, usefulness, personal innovativeness, access to peers, and barriers. It is depicted in the mean factor score, standard deviation, and response variance data presented in Table 8. The data is base on the theme relating to how social media sites are use in crisis management.

Table 8 provides the mean factor score and the standard deviation of the response rate obtained from the respondents. The figures were calculated using the sample size as the base rate. These results are meant to establish if there is a relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communication and ease of use, usefulness, personal innovativeness, access to peers and barriers.

Table 8

Mean factor Score and Standard Deviations for the Research. It is useful to the study because it creates awareness of the average use of social media among various groups.

Mean factor Score and Standard Deviations for the Research

Concerning the use of social media and ease of use, the majority of the respondents viewed it mainly in the context of information exchange and not the technical aspects of it. They perceived that social media has made it easy for people to share information about existing disasters with the emergency response teams. They tend not to use manual approaches to seek help. The information is evident in Table 9 where the low factor for media use stands at 1.92 and content access stands at 1.88, while the mean standard deviation equals 0.270 and 0.323, respectively.

According to social media users, the social media platforms are easy to use because (a) they are cost-effective, (b) the essential features for sending and receiving information are marked, and (c) information tracking can be done. Participants also justified their position by stating that even those with no technological background can easily communicate using the platforms. They perceived that even those with no education, but using smartphones and laptops, can send and receive messages. Those opposed to this notion estimated that the application of social media does not improve the ease of use. If anything, it promotes a culture of irresponsible sharing of information that is detrimental to societal well-being.

Usefulness of Social Media

Table 9 indicates the response rate about the usefulness of social media. The results were base on the closed-ended question presented to the respondents about whether they believe that social media has been useful in disaster communication. Of the 77 participants who responded, 71 affirmed that social media has been helpful and only 6 expressed reservations.

Table 9

The usefulness of Social Media. It applies to the study by giving clear insights into the usefulness of social media platforms.

Category

Response rate

Yes

71

No

6

Total

77

Regarding usefulness, the majority of the disaster managers, as established in RQ2 with particular reference to the Table 9 results, are in agreement that the application of social media in disaster communication is useful, which agrees with the alternate hypothesis. They based the context of use on the speed of information delivery, cost implication, and promotion of teamwork. Respondents perceived that social media platforms provide active channels that allow information to flow within seconds to recipients, regardless of distance. Media platforms have helped to achieve this by enabling quick access to the disaster messages shared with the risk management agencies. Many examples of disasters in which social media was useful currently exist. They include Hurricane Harvey, Tornado storms, Louisiana floods, and Tennessee’s wildfire in which social media got credited with creating timely alerts.

The majority were also cautious about the cost. Respondents perceived that sending messages through social media platforms is cheap, and this allows many people to use them comfortably. They see sense in using these platforms (compared to others) because of their affordability. The third reason is teamwork. Social media was considered useful by the majority because of its ability to bring people from different locations together to pursue a common goal (Nordyke, 2018). The platforms have assisted in mobilizing assistance during disasters that range from humanitarian support, human capital or risk management specialists, and other support. The move helps to raise necessary support that the victims of a disaster strike may need.

A smaller percentage of the respondents felt that the application of social media in disaster communication is not holistically useful. They defended their position by indicating that the platforms cause more harm to the victims than good. The injury emanates from the irresponsible ways of communication that people can adopt. Some people post pictures that are traumatizing to viewers or victims. The reckless or irresponsible sharing of raw photographs and false information in some cases has led to questions about the relevance of social media when it comes to disaster communication and whether it could be sustained.

Access to peers is another critical pillar that makes a connection with the application of social media in disaster and risk communication. Peers are people who share certain characteristics, such as age. They may be closely related, community members, or global citizens. Such groups or individuals need to communicate, but this may be impossible, according to respondents, due to the lack of a vibrant media platform. Nevertheless, social media platforms are credit for opening up communication among individuals from diverse locations. The platforms have increased access to peers globally as evident from the high rate of interactions and sharing that different groups witness.

Personal Innovation and Barriers Relating to Social Media Usage

With personal innovativeness and barriers as contained in Figure 8, 57 of the sampled respondents confirmed that the application of social media to disaster communication influences innovation relating to information sharing and responsible communication. Mainly, the use of technology in contact has ignited the drive for knowing more about the best ways of communication, according to respondents. People are increasingly innovating new forms of information sharing and faster means of information transfer. However, 15 of the respondents, as indicated in Figure 8, insisted that the social media platforms create perceptible barriers to responsible communication or the sharing of information. The fact that the use of the platforms is unregulated and not easy to regulate hinders or bars the responsible use of the platforms.

The arguments presented in support of the existing relationship between social media platforms in disaster communication and ease of use, usefulness, and access to peers, personal innovativeness, and barriers, outweigh the opposing views. It indicates that these elements are related. For example, the application of social media has been useful in the process of disaster management, according to respondents. It has facilitated the free flow and sharing of information among stakeholders, thereby enhancing response rates. Social media has also been useful economically because it reduces the cost of communication. Social media is equally easy to use in discussion. The platforms are user-friendly because they have simple features that users can learn to increase the speed of use.

Additionally, social media is related to access to peers, personal innovation, and barriers by opening up communication avenues that bring people together, regardless of their location, and allows users to think or develop more innovative ways of use and contain communication challenges. As of result of these data, the hypothesis Ho2, which states that there is no statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers were accepted. The alternative hypothesis, Ha2, that there is a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers, was rejected.

RQ3 Results

RQ3 queried if there is there a relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms.

The table below provides the regression statistics of the response rate for RQ3 that sought to establish the relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms. The figures are calculated using the total sample size as the base rate. The data measure the extent to which EM demographics such as age, gender, and location are related to the social media platforms.

Table 10

Mean Factor Score and Standard Deviations for the Sample. The table is useful and applies to the study because it creates awareness of the extent to which EM demographics such as age, gender and location are related to the social media platforms

Mean Factor Score and Standard Deviations for the Sample

The mean score and the standard deviation records real figures of 2.8442 and 0.36509, respectively. The stats show that the majority of the respondents affirmed the relationship between the demographics and the social media platforms. Although the mean value might appear lower, it still signifies a strong correlation between EM demographics and the use of social media.

The mean factor score, standard deviation, and response variances depict that emergency managers are the people who lead disaster management, including coordination of rescue missions of disaster victims. The managers oversee how things take place and the strategies that are undertaken to assist disaster victims. They are part of the team that offers recuperation and restoration services. Despite their regular role, they have different demographic characteristics that include age, gender, and location. The managers are of varying age groups, come from different places or cultural backgrounds, and socialize differently. This aspect explains why their approach to issues cannot be similar in society. Even the strategies that they use to handle disaster cases are diverse.

The higher reported mean factor value affirms that the respondents sampled accepted that emergency managers are people with divergent beliefs, views, understanding, age groups, and genders. These demographic differences affect the way they relate and make decisions about how to handle disaster challenges, including the use of social media platforms. What is evident from the low factor of 3.3 and content access deviation of 4.02 is that the young EMs are always pro-social media. They are ready and willing to embrace the use of various social media platforms as compared to older age groups who are more recent to use social media. According to respondents, young managers resonate well with social media and they advocate its use. The rationale behind their rationale is attached to the benefits that social media has such as high speed of information sharing and low-cost obligation.

Location is another factor or characteristic that influences the decision to use social media or not. According to the respondents, sites that have superior network coverage can support the use of the social media services and record higher usage, as opposed to the places with poor network coverage (Tinker, Dumlao, & McLaughlin, 2017). To an extent, location determines whether the use of social media will be of priority or not. Integrating social media platforms or resorting to social media as the primary source of news or communication in areas in which there is no network would be unwise. The actual system, is the driving force of social media. Without an active network, nothing would work. There is no doubt that the demographic characteristics and social media platforms are related, which is evident in Table 12. For instance, age affects how people think about social media and the decision to embrace it. The Location also influences whether social media platforms will be practical to use.

The results in Tables 11 and 12 and reflected in Ho3 which states that there is no statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms, was rejected. The alternative hypothesis, Ha3, which states that

There is a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and the use of social media platforms was accepted.

CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS

This chapter includes detailed discussions of the results obtained from the study. The objective is to enhance understanding among stakeholders about the impact of social media on disaster communication. The analysis is based on the research questions to ensure that every element is understood. It also captures recommendations that foster the effective use of social media in disaster communication, limitations, and conclusion.

Summary of the Results

As noted from the facts presented, disaster communication involves identification of the disaster, processing of the information and dissemination of data to the right individuals for response and action (Minchillo, 2013). A key plank in that effort is allowing the emergency managers to play a stronger role in disaster communication and that no additional harm comes to the victims or their families. Disasters are strenuous psychologically, economically, mentally, and socially. People who are victims of various forms of hazards, whether road accident, bomb attack, shooting, or a hurricane face hard times in their lives and thereby remain in need of unique healing. They and; their families are vulnerable; hence, there is a need for a response as quickly as possible from emergency crisis teams (Poore, 2016).

Disaster communication helps to create awareness about any detrimental event, which may be human-made or natural. Respondent perceived that this communication could become perfect if the use of social media is improved. This aspect makes social media a central tool in the process of disaster communication. The media platforms provide essential support structures that allow data to flow from one person to another over distances, in extraordinary circumstances, and quickly (Minchillo, 2013). For instance, the platforms enable data to flow between disaster management bodies, security agencies, and the public, who are on the ground. Speed and quality of the information are paramount in ensuring that a response is well supervised; therefore, social media has become a critical pillar in the process of disaster communication.

The essential platforms that are used in the modern day include Facebook, Twitter, email, and others. They are cheap and user-friendly for most people globally. According to respondents, governments and disaster management agencies have found it necessary to use social media platforms to communicate with the public about imminent disasters, including the steps that are needed to deal with the beginning or ongoing disasters (Dyer, 2016). The agencies use the communication tools because of their effectiveness and ability to convey information fast about issues. In the process, the sharing of information heightens the level of trust and relationship with all stakeholders. Agencies use social networking sites, web 2.0 technology, and social media tools that include Facebook and Twitter.

Emergency management professionals who were respondents affirmed that increasing use of social media could be a credit to advances in the technology sector. Technological advancements have led to the development of new communication platforms that are faster and more cost-effective than earlier events (Friedmann & Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015). The platforms are open for use by anyone.

In the US, social media platforms appears as powerful tools for communication and sharing of data. They have become instrumental in sharing information about crises. From the responses to the survey, nearly all the disasters that have occurred in the recent past have been made prominence because of the use of social media platforms (Maron, 2013). They are relied on with creating rapid awareness about the crises that included the Katrina and the Hurricane Harvey incident in which information was promptly disclosed using Twitter and Facebook and prompted a fast response. The respondents agreed that the best approach to deal with a crisis is to communicate its existence. Once this is transmitted, timely response from relevant entities can be expected and implemented.

Media platforms are also beneficial because they offer better ways or channels through which individuals can report emergencies (Chan, 2017). Platforms provide viable mechanisms through which assistance could be received when a disaster occurs. Previous to these platforms, disaster response teams are a fault for a slow reaction to a crisis. People accused emergency response teams of a late arrival where emergency attention was needed immediately, or even if they were near the emergency. Another critical role of social media that has benefited many victims is the ability of the platforms to mobilize humanitarian support globally. In the future, social media can be used to describe criminals, thereby enabling the authorities to track them efficiently.

Empirical studies confirm a direct link between social media and disaster communication. The two are interrelated because they affect how a crisis is handled. They do this by gathering reports on emerging disasters both before and after the occurrence (Naidu & Derani, 2015). The data collected in the present study revealed that social media affects or impacts disaster communication in two ways. Some positive and some negative. The positive impact involves the support that media platforms give towards prompt sharing of information about a disaster (Naidu & Derani, 2015). The negative impact relates to the delivery of a malicious information about the crisis that may not exist.

Discussion of the Results Based on the Research Questions

RQ1. The study of the impact of social media on disaster communication gives insightful revelations and confirmations that social media platforms and quality communication within the disaster management framework cannot be separated. The two are dependent, given that effective communication in the current business environment is urged to action by technology-enabled media platforms (Smith & Shares, 2011). Social media platforms have continued to increase due to the advancements in the technology sector. The number of platforms is growing beyond the noteworthy Facebook and Twitter to social networking platforms, web 2.0 technology, and various virtual sites such as YouTube and collaborative tagging sites (White, 2016). The growth is opening avenues of communication by providing a wide range of platforms that companies or disaster managers can choose from, which allows them to select favorable social media platforms based on cost and effectiveness. They can decide what they can manage and sustain when communicating with other stakeholders.

In the US, according to the study conducted, great strides have been registered regarding disaster management that is courtesy of the existing social media platforms. Over 85% of the disaster managers affirmed this fact with only 12% recording neutrality. They agreed that social media has revolutionized how stakeholders link within sectors. The public and social media users can report incidences that occur for further action by the relevant agencies (Smith & Shares, 2011). The disaster management teams have also developed 24-hour service portals and Hashtag channels for exchange of information. Trained experts in customer care and disaster management operate the service portal. They receive information from local communicators about any disaster and facilitate a quick response. The move has been beneficial in most cases where severe incidents such as flooding, wildfires, mass shootings, and heat waves have occurred (Minchillo, 2013). As established, the facts indicate clearly that social media is integral in the process of disaster communication because it provides viable avenues for ensuring prompt information sharing.

The availability of conventional media platforms, their effectiveness, and the increasing number of users explains the extent to which the platforms are used. These aspects provide a clear indication that social media is useful among stakeholders in the disaster management sector (White, 2016). Emergency management professionals in the present study cited social media as a great and noble invention. They view it as a game changer in the communication field that demands the use of practical techniques for the best results to be realized. The professionals use different forms of social media to share information (Rhodan, 2017). The notable ones include Twitter, Facebook, virtual sites, and various networking sites. The users power the media platforms with internet to guarantee 24-hour service delivery. The idea is to have a sustainable communication channel that allows the exchange of information among stakeholders in real time (Friedmann & Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015).

Reports indicate that most disaster management professionals are using social media platforms. They approve of the platforms because of their efficiency and promptness the purpose of which is for professionals to use to communicate or share information with other professionals locally and internationally when necessary expertise needful is in a given circumstance. In the US, the disaster management agencies have embraced the platforms to secure support from other agencies and support institutions (Poore, 2016). The trend is increasing, and positive results are registered. These factors indicate that the extent to which EM professionals are using the social media to communicate with other EM professionals about crisis information is increasing. The scale is rated high due to the response rate from the EM professionals. They can understand each other and join efforts toward providing solutions to the victims of occurring incidents.

According to the responses received, social media play an important role in disaster communication. First, the media platforms offer better ways or channels through which individuals can report emergencies (Chan, 2017). Second, the platforms provide viable mechanisms for which assistance can receive from when a disaster occurs. For a long time, disaster response teams have been a fault for delayed reactions to crises. People have accused them of late arrival, even where emergency attention are needed or in circumstances where they were near enough for an immediate response. What people fail to understand is that they may be near, but with no information about an incident. The matter is concerning, and it has caused worry among stakeholders. The delay in response, according to many, is worrying because of damage that may occur or sustained in the absence of response (Maron, 2013).

According to the respondents in the present study, 55 EMs from various disaster management teams such as the Red Cross indicated that the delay in response was caused by numerous factors, with one being inaccurate reporting about an incident or late receipt of the information. Circumstances, however, are changing in the current century in which the use of social media is gaining momentum. The response teams or emergency handling bodies are satisfied with the current happenings concerning access to the information about emergencies. The rate of reporting of an emerging crisis before or at the time of occurrence is encouraging. Owing to this trend, they find it easy to plan and respond to the disasters in a timely fashion. They are cautioning social media users to embrace ethical standards and report responsibly (Velev, 2012). They should only communicate what is necessary, without creating horrifying pictures that may cause trauma to the recipients. According to the view of the 42 respondents, such warnings are justifiable because there are cases in which Twitter users have provided inconsistent information about specific incidents, such as the Boston Marathon bombing crisis (O’Connor, 2017). The information on the social media made it more difficult to track and get the right information that could help provide mitigating measures.

Another vital role of social media that has benefited many victims is the ability of the platforms to mobilize humanitarian support globally. Disaster management agencies such as the Red Cross have used social media platforms to raise funds to assist victims of disasters. The initiative was successful during the Haiti earthquake crisis where over $5 million in a fund within 48 hours (Rhodan, 2017). Subsequently, social media can be used to describe criminals, thereby enabling the authorities to track them better. In the US, the platforms have been used to monitor those who commit crimes. For instance, the FBI uses information from social media to the net and arrest suspects (Dyer, 2016).

RQ2. Another essential point to note is that the application of social media in disaster and risk communication is mostly related to the ease of use, the usefulness of the platforms, access to peers, and personal innovation (Potts, 2013). Many people have doubted the relationship between the application of social media platforms in communication and their usefulness. Some have never imagined that implementing the platforms can influence the ease of use. However, results of the present study presented living examples that justify the relationship between the application of social media and impacts thereof regarding the usefulness, ease of use, and access to peers (Potts, 2013).

Over 65 respondents, as noted from the study, reaffirmed that the application of social media platforms has contributed to the improvement of knowledge about how to use the technology. It has helped in advancing the ability of people to use social media, thereby proving the ease of use of the platforms. For example, the public and social media users agree that introducing social media in disaster communication has forced them to learn basic skills about how to send and receive messages using the various social media platforms (Potts, 2013). In the process of acquiring knowledge or gaining skills, they make it easy to use the systems. Although critics dispute this, nearly 85% of the sampled group rated the application of the platforms as a catalyst for their usability by the stakeholders. They do this knowing that, one day some disasters will happen in their neighborhood and they will need to report or seek assistance, and that is only achievable when skills are intact.

Subsequently, it is evident that there is a strong relationship between the application of social media in disaster communication and its usefulness. Social media is a tool that aids information sharing between people (Potts, 2013). The technology offers viable channels through which information flow and can be used for decision-making in other areas or create awareness about incidents. This factor explains why more emphasis is being placed on the need for institutions to integrate modern social media communication systems in their technological footprint. The idea is to boost communication by making it robust, cost-effective, and of quality (Jin, 2017). In the US, all organizations are pushed to embrace quality communication systems and structures that are grounded in technology. They are required to use social media and in particular, set up an information management desk that receives and answers concerns.

The underlying principle behind integrating social media and shared knowledge about it is that it is useful in communication. The social media platforms are used to disseminate information and pictures to different people at different locations (Jin, 2017). When social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used to expedite disaster communication, the technology-enabled channels become useful to the stakeholders. The ability of EM professionals and other disaster management stakeholders to apply social media tools to report and coordinate disaster management depicts how valuable the platforms are in this century (Dyer, 2016).

From the responses obtained, the first area of usefulness was that social media has continually allowed the public to report incidents that occur under their watch to the EM professionals effectively. They have also allowed the public and social media users to seek assistance when necessary, even in remote areas. The fact that they are multiple is a plus because the users can find and use a media platform that works well in the region where they are situated. The availability of various media platforms has helped to reduce the time wastage that was previously common.

Additionally, the EM professionals can share information effectively with their peers in other locations, courtesy of the media platforms. Eighty-five percent of the respondents affirmed that they could interact and seek support from each other where necessary, and to ensure that the disaster victim has assistance promptly. Despite exploring or sharing information, the application of social media has enhanced the EM professional’s ability to access peers both professionals and non-professionals.

RQ3. Regarding the relationship between EM demographic characteristics such as age, gender and location, and use of the social media platforms, it is apparent that the two have a deep relationship. Effective use of social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and virtual sites requires some level of knowledge and exposure to technology (Takahashi & Tandoc, 2014). The skills to use them are essential because they allow users to understand the critical roles of each feature associated with the individual social media platform. For instance, technological skills help users to innovatively find more about social media forms, how they work, and their cost-effectiveness. It also allows users to understand their effectiveness and the security features that safeguard their usage.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents who were EM professionals concurred that for one to understand facts, age, gender and location play a role. The younger generation finds it easy to conceptualize and use the platforms easily as compared to older populations. They can learn faster how to use the platforms in communication. They can also understand the dynamics that underlie their usage and develop the best approaches to sustain media usage (Jin, 2017). The time they spend learning how the sites can be improved and user are not compared with older individuals. In the US, most those who use social media are young individuals. The age demographics range from 10 to 40 years old. The usage trend and enthusiasm diminishes as age increases.

At 40 years, the use of the platforms slows. According to respondents, this group of people may not respond soon or report an incident quickly due to their detachment from social media. They may need more time to find their communication devices, access a social media platform, and then post a report. However, youth are attached to their devices and they are always online. It enables them to report or seek assistance immediately once the disaster is noted. The same also applies to the EM professionals (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2014). The youth professionals are more vibrant and active than the old ones. Their output is high, including the speed with which they communicate to other stakeholders. The group is always ready to respond to any call or disaster. Results showed that the age of the EM stakeholders has a direct relationship to the use of social media platforms.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents re-affirmed that gender equally affects the use of social media in disaster communication. The general overview of gender and use of social media indicates that more women are prone to use the platforms than men. The female gender is always on social media, updating statuses, posting pictures, and sharing information, more so than their male counterparts (Hoelzel, 2015). Despite the high numbers, those who participate actively in communicating a disaster to emergency teams are nearly the same as the number of men.

Respondents indicated they perceived that the majority of females are on social media, but are slow, and reluctant or inaccurate with sharing information about disasters. This aspect raised concern because most of them share information, but not with the right agencies to prompt immediate action (Hoelzel, 2015). The problem is attributable to the fact that they are mostly unaware of whom to approach when a disaster occurs as compared to men who are more accurate with their communications (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2014). Based on the data, men are more resourceful when it comes to disaster communication because of accuracy in the sharing of information (Enarson & Pease, 2016)

Location of EM professionals and social media users is another factor that affects the speed of information transfer, including the effectiveness of the delivery. Those who are located near or in urban centers find it easy to communicate and share information among peers as compared to those in diverse areas. The reasons for this include good network coverage in the urban areas, in contrast to rural settings. The differences are apparent because social media platforms appears powered by the internet and are stronger in urban areas due to the proximity of the boosters.

Owing to the high signal amplification achievable with being in the urban setting, communication is much more comfortable between those who are in urban environment, hence promoting timely responses to emerging incidences. The situation is contrary to what happens in the rural areas, where passing information about disaster sometimes becomes difficult, thereby hindering quick response and the eventual aid to victims. Many cases have reported in which people die, and the property was destroyed, due to delayed reaction and laxity in reportage of disaster incidence to the emergency management teams.

The location also affects the use of social media among individuals. Results indicate that four of five people who live in urban areas use social media more frequently than those in the rural areas. The people in urban settings have more reasons to use the platforms to share with others and stay informed, as opposed to those in the rural areas who may be satisfied with a low profile, technology-free lifestyle (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2014). Some of them must stay off the devices that could help them access social media platforms, such as phones and computers, because of working conditions. The level of reluctance in the use of tools is very high, which may make them miss communicating relevant information to proper authorities. Such attitudes and behavioral patterns remain costly to the public and the nation at large because problems that cannot be mitigated effectively can be destroying to lives.

EM professionals have not denied the impact of the location from which people communicate using social media platforms. They insist they face many challenges in local areas that prevent them from coordinating the quality of responses to disasters that occur. The local service providers indicate that the logistics at local districts do not favor good service delivery as compared to the urban setting experiences (Takahashi & Tandoc, 2014); hence, the achievements that have been set down in the urban areas may not be the same as those in the local settings.

EM demographic characteristics that include age, gender, and location, according to respondents, have a closer relationship to how social media is in use. For instance, youth has been found to be the most substantial body of social media users, and males nearly dominate those who use the media platforms accurately in communicating information about disasters.

Conclusions and Recommendations Based on the Results

From this study, many findings and recommendations have derived. The result, and recommendations apply to the stakeholders in the disaster management sector and they are focused on sanitizing and improving service delivery. They are focused on facilitating the use of social media in disaster communication.

The first conclusion is that disaster management agencies should integrate and sustain the use of social media. The agencies, particularly those that have not embraced the use of social media, should consider the platforms to increase their communication abilities. The agencies should also develop a 24-hour functioning information desk and online hotline channels through the social media for sharing information.

The second recommendation is for the EM agencies to embark on training staff members about the best ways to use social media in communicating disaster information. The training should cover communication skills to ensure the sharing of data. Similarly, the public should become sensitized about how to communicate using social media tools and the level of accountability required regarding disaster communication.

The third conclusion involves the availability of resources to help provide support and infrastructure for effective communication to be achieved. The use of social media platforms requires proper preparation because there must be supporting tools such as computers, phones, and radio calls. Having such devices involves an investment of capital. To realize this, emergency providers should set aside adequate funds to enable them to procure the necessary support structures. Disaster management agencies should also consider integrating information filters to promote the reception of relevant information only. The idea is to avoid dealing with the type of information that is not related to the work or services they provide.

The fourth recommendation is that emergency service providers should bring more social media platforms to their portfolios. That is, they should embrace many social media platforms. The idea is to widen their scope of operations, instead of limiting their ability to receive information to a few platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that may not be accessible to some individuals due to network challenges. They should integrate all the technology-enabled media platforms that include phones, Facebook, Twitter, virtual sites, blogs, collaborative tagging’s, YouTube, web 2.0 technology, and various networking sites. Information flow can still be sufficient, even when some platforms are not active in multiple areas.

The fifth recommendations are that the implementation of the social media strategy should be all-inclusive. The organizations involved should collaborate with the stakeholders by involving them in decision-making to avert feelings of isolation. The reason is to create awareness among all stakeholders about the importance of the process and its role in ensuring holistic success. No strategy could successfully and favorable results achieved when stakeholders are not given invitations into discussions at the initial stages.

It is essential for disaster management agencies to develop best quality practices and ethical standards to guide the usage of the social media platforms. The measures are necessary to ensure that the users uphold sanity and accountability. The move will help to eliminate the negative impact that social media has had on disaster communication. It will stop irresponsible posting of materials or photos of disaster victims whose ripple effect is traumatic and brings psychological impairment to the recipients.

Limitations

Limitations are challenges that threaten the realization of the set objectives of the project. They constrain the execution of activities thereby making it hard for the project coordinator to work optimally. Limitations can be in the context of structures, finances, time, skills and goodwill. In this research, some restrictions were encounter. These limitations threatened to curtail the research progress at some points. Similarly, they nearly affected the quality of the data collected.

The first limitation that was beset by was inadequate funds. The research required more funds to aid the key activities such as data collection and analysis. The funds needed to do this were exceeding the researcher’s capability and financial strength. The problem was because the researcher had to finance the survey process that included data collections costs, among others.

Access to print materials also requires money because accessing the relevant articles from various libraries involves payment. Therefore, the limitation of funds made the researcher limit the scope of the study and data collection. This aspect was not encouraging because research of this nature requires the collection of information from as many sources as possible to foster generalizability, quality, and the drawing of conclusions. The problem denied the researcher the opportunity to access and compare as many print materials as possible.

Time was another factor that was limited. The researcher had a short timeframe that proved to be challenging due to the nature of the issue under discussion. Such a research study requires adequate time to allow for engagement of the many data collection sources. Therefore, the short time forced the researcher to omit information from other sources that would have been useful.

The next limitation revolves around attitude. No research study can be successful if the researcher and the participants have the negative reaction. Such a situation would mean that the activities done would not be above the satisfactory threshold. When participants have a negative attitude, even the responses they give would not be accurate, and this affects the validity of the results. For this study, attitude problems were encounter in some respondents. Some were not willing to give information, while others were willing to cooperate only partially. The problem threatened to affect the process of data collection, but the researcher managed the issue by had choosing suitable volunteer respondents.

The Implication of the Study for Practice

The study presents essential lessons to the primary stakeholders in the disaster management sector. They are the people who are set to benefit the most from the results and recommendations put forward and that is anchored on reasonable and credible information obtained from the respondents with experience, including empirical studies. The overall implication is that the survey charges or obligates every stakeholder to take part in disaster management. Everyone has a responsibility to play, and the roles range from communicating any incident that occurs in the surrounding areas, provisions of quality or necessary support, and creation of a good environment for rescue activities to take place. For instance, as the public has a role to give reports about incidences, the emergency caregivers should always be ready to respond to calls, and the government must support the agencies materially and structurally, including creating a conducive working environment.

The second important implication is that everyone in the society should be technically competent or skilled. People should have basic skills for using social media platforms and the communication tools such as phones to enable them to share information effectively. Without knowledge of how to use the modern methods of communication, upon which social media platforms operate, the intention to improve response to disasters through prompt access to the information may remain elusive. The world authorities and the EM professionals may not achieve the ultimate goal of always providing timely support to victims of disasters.

In particular instances, the fact that social media has a direct impact on disaster communication has severe implications for all stakeholders. The effects range from technical and psychological to emotional and financial. The revelation that the extent to which different forms of social media help EM professionals to share and exchange information with others or peers implies that emergency management bodies should integrate numerous media platforms in their working systems. They should consider expanding their network or platforms of communication to allow access to information from different locations. It also implies that the agencies should improve communication by creating an information desk and emergency response team that work 24 hours a day. The move is to ensure that the agencies such as the Red Cross are well-connected to all parts of the country and they can link well with the locals.

Financially, the expansion of the specific media platforms and tools of communication imply that emergency companies must invest more in the discussion. They must set aside or budget for the improvement of services. This aspect has been a challenge for many organizations, but there is no option now that it is proof of value that the use of different forms of social media increases the extent of communication and information sharing. As this happens, social media users and the public stand affected because they have to learn how to use the additional media platforms to help them share information effectively.

The next important area in which this study is bound to have implications is about the application of social media to disaster and risk communication. The revelation that there is a strong relationship between the form of social media in disaster communication and ease of use, the usefulness of the platforms, access to peers, and barriers, justifies discussion of this aspect of the study. The information affirms the need for EM professionals and agencies to refocus their potential in advancing the application of social media in disaster communication. This undertaking has positive returns and impacts in the manner in which risks are managed, including the response rate to disasters. It calls for all stakeholders to embrace the use of social media correctly. They should learn how to use the social media and its application in the management of a disaster. The reason for this is to increase the ease of use and usefulness of the platforms among the users. Until this is done, society can never realize how useful the social media platforms are, both in the short and long term. To this extent, the relationship between these aspects implies that emergency agencies should invest more in social media platforms and support their application in disaster communication.

Additionally, the relationship between EM demographic characteristics that include age, gender, and location and the use of social media implies that strategic measures should be put in place to have more people use these technological methods of communication. The fact that the majority of those who use social media to communicate are youth should not be the case going forward. Deliberate initiatives should be undertaken to have more youth embrace the technology; the older generation should not be left out in the bracket of active social media users. Such a strategy is suitable because it would ensure that all stakeholders within the community would have the capacity for communication that they can use to share information about disasters when the need arises.

The findings also imply that both female and male genders should be encouraged to share information about disasters, although the female gender should be encouraged. They should be influenced to change attitudes and behaviors toward the use of social media in sharing crucial information, apart from being a source of fun. Regarding location, emergency management agencies should collaborate with network service providers to ensure that connectivity to at least two social media platforms is establishing in every part of the nation. The rationale is to make communication possible at all times, despite the location of the disaster or the emergency teams. Notably, the implications are positive, and they will promote effective use of social media in disaster communication that has previously been beneficial to stakeholders. They set the stage for the advancement of the use of technology in conversation in the current century.

Recommendations for Further Study

Recommendations developed directly from the data. The first recommendation is that an investigation into the role of social media in disaster communication should be conducted to bring the discussion to date. The topic is relevant and necessary for the future study to help in establishing in-depth data with regards to the direct role that social media plays in disaster communication. Many people and institutions have used social media, but only a few have understood the broader role the different media platforms play in disaster communication and management. Therefore, this information will be highly beneficial to the social media users, disaster managers, organizations, and policymakers. It will enable them to make efficient decisions.

The second recommendation is that an investigation into how the application of social media has transformed risk management should be studied. Risk management is an essential element in any organization. The scope of control determines how successful a company can be when discharging different duties or mitigating emergencies. They must have the right tools and software to guarantee quality results. That is why a study on how the application of social media has transformed risk management is necessary to create awareness for how different threatening risks can be mitigated using social media communication platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and web2technology, among others.

Recommendations based on delimitations. The third recommendation is an examination of the effects of social media on communication. The topic is useful for further studies to help to understand the positive and negative effects of using social media platforms in contact. This information will assist companies and decision makers to know when and what type of social media platform to use for useful results, in different situations. Risks are better managed using tools that are well defined and controlled.

The fourth recommendation is that an investigative study be embark on about how to improve disaster communication in developing nations. A survey of this topic is necessary to enlighten the developing nations about how best they can deal with disaster. Developing countries are adversely affected when it comes to catastrophe; whether fire, water or earthquake. They have shown a lack of preparedness for dealing with tragedies, even with less damaging events. The problem is attributable to poor planning, secondary use of the communication systems and media platforms, and lack of understanding of how they can capitalize on the available resources to avert a crisis of diverse nature. Therefore, this study will help to deal with such challenges.

Conclusion

From the result of the present study, it is prudent to conclude that social media has a significant impact on disaster communication. The effect is inevitable, and it is in the context of speed, efficiency, and accuracy. Social media enables EM professionals and the public to share information promptly in a cost-effective manner. Most of the social media platforms run or operate on low levels of expense, hence making them accessible to individuals of diverse backgrounds. From its definition, social media is essential because it is a network or a platform that allows people to share information. It is a channel that is technologically-enabled (purposely) to link people. Examples of social media networks include Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 technology, virtual communities, and other networking sites, such as YouTube.

The internet powers the networked sites or platforms in most cases. They have been instrumental because they aid communication between individuals without a physical presence. These platforms allow people to share from different locations over much of the world. Intact, they have made the world a global village. The concept of faster and secure communication forms the reasoning for why the majority of institutions, including emergency management agencies, are considering these platforms. The organizations are integrating the modern social networks to facilitate information flow from one point to another. They also use them to obtain feedback from stakeholders. For emergency service providers, the platforms allow access to reports about disasters, thereby igniting a prompt response. Emergency service providers credit social media platforms for revolutionizing communication in the world today. The media platforms have changed the way people share and cooperate between businesses and service levels in organizations.

On the other hand, disaster communication involves sharing a message of crises to other individuals. A disaster is a calamity or hardship that causes harm and destruction to properties and life. The magnitude of impact to which they expose victims always calls for appropriate reaction. The response is necessary to help to restore lives by offering essential support services such as counseling or material goods. However, for the support to be given, there must be communication between the service providers and the victims. It is where communication is essential, and it must be done using viable channels that include social media platforms.

Effective and faster communication cannot take place without the use of superior media systems or platforms, such as Twitter. The platforms are vital because they have broad coverage, the information flow in them is one touch, there are no delays, and they are easy to use. In the US, authorities are encouraging the use of the social media in communication. The drive for this is to have a society that is empowered technologically, and that can embrace change. The purpose of social media is an idea that will not become irrelevant in the modern world, and the use of the media platforms should be a priority.

Social media impacts communication in different ways, with notable effects being both positive and negative. There is a feeling that social media does not only expose users to positive impacts but negative impacts as well. There are those that believe social media is not as good as it is perceived. They advocate for caution as the platforms are used to share information that may be detrimental to society. In light of the positive impact, social media present economic, structural and communication benefits. Social media provides appropriate incentives that allow users to communicate effectively. Economically, the social media platforms offer low-cost communication channels that enable many people to embrace them for communication.

Communicators are always looking for low-cost platforms that are effective. Similarly, social media platforms are fast when it comes to the transfer of information. There is no delay when using social media. This aspect is a witness on several occasions during disasters, such as hurricane and wildfire incidents. For instance, social media has helped to facilitate information sharing during hurricanes with the relevant authorities. In particular, Facebook was used during some events to share information. The timely sharing of information aided response, given that the disaster management teams were able to identify the message and act appropriately. The public also managed to get immediate information about the incident and a security warning indicating a need for vigilance.

Structurally, the introduction of social media platforms should force or motivate organizations to restructure their communication departments. The organizations should streamline their communication structures to incorporate technology while eliminating manual communication structures that are time-consuming. The move would enable many organizations that include the disaster management agencies to handle a massive amount of data on a daily basis. The agencies should also develop emergency communication lines that are being monitored 24 hours a day. These are vital given that they will allow the realization of complete, reliable and valid information from the stakeholders in the emergency response sector.

Despite the positive benefits, reservations arising from existing cases of reduced usage of the media platforms should be dealt with effectively. The level of accountability and responsiveness among social media users has been variable across circumstances, but this should not be the case. Some of the users have not achieved the recommended standards because they engaged in sharing false information (Takahashi & Tandoc, 2014). In some instances, they provided inconsistent or contradictory information that was not healthy for progress in the sector. Every organization that aspires to achieve the best results must address these issues amicably. They must ensure that they formulate quality standards, best communication practices, ethics, and strong values. These will promote delivery of the right information at the right time.

As established, the structures and standards will help to ensure that there is a smooth flow of information through systematic elimination of the communication shortfalls. They will also obligate the information providers and receivers to be accountable for their actions all of the time. This factor will eliminate rampant cases in which the people seek to blame others for failure, mainly when delays are a witness in response to a disaster.

The extent to which EM professionals use social media is very encouraging, globally. The professionals do not only view social media as a tool for communication but a resource for facilitating service delivery to victims of emergency incidences. They emphasize the use of different social media platforms because each has merits and demerits. Each also has areas of suitability in which users would not be intimidated by elements outside the control of the users. The users should also consider the ease of use in the platforms before embracing them. In the US, EM professionals and social media users approve the technological advancement that has revolutionized the way communication is transmitted. They hold that the introduction of various social media platforms have assisted in eliminating some of the challenges of disaster relief that society has grappled with for years.

Sharing of information about a disaster was not comfortable in the early days. Some incidents happened unnoticed, and people would suffer without any form of assistance, or in some cases, the events were reported late, after the damage had occurred. The level of suffering was fueled by the inability of the public to link well with emergency response teams. However, communication among stakeholders is improving courtesy of social media platforms. The problems witnessed may now mostly be in the past given the effectiveness of social media platforms in communication. The suggestion for the emergency caregivers is to consider embracing diverse social media networks that are sustainable, and supported by the resources available.

EM professionals and other social media users justify the discussion that social media has enhanced or created better communications among EM professionals within the US and other regions globally. First, it enables EM professionals in towns to connect, share, and exchange information without difficulty. The sharing of information helps them provide each other with aid, mainly if a need arises. For instance, EM professionals from one region can seek the support of others from the different areas to deal with a crisis. This support can be equally requested internationally using the media platforms.

This practice is common in the U.S and other nations during times of disaster. The stakeholders have used social media to mobilize resources and assistance locally and internationally. The notable examples include the Katrina incident, tornado incidents, and wildfire incidents. Besides, social media has created a viable channel through which EM professional’s share and exchange information with the public. These aspects clearly indicate that the extent to which social media platforms are promoting information sharing between stakeholders in the emergency care sector is excellent and undisputed.

Another important conclusion is that social media is applied in disaster and crisis management. Results of the present study justify this fact given that organizations and individuals are resorting to faster methods of communication. People are inclined to disseminate and receive information without delay. That explains the extent and high rate at which social media is valued and used in the current century, including the reason why professionals are promoting the need to leverage the use of these platforms. For instance, the U.S Coast Guard explains how they leverage social media to conduct their work. They are always monitoring the media platforms during a crisis and at other times when there is no crisis to report. The monitoring is not only to curb crises but also to address any emerging crises.

During emergency situations, serious confusion can take place, which affects the execution of various procedures that could be helpful in controlling the case. Even reporting alone is affected when there is no known platform and nowhere to report. Such challenges are a witnessed, and they are the situations that motivate the goal of putting in place direct communication call codes, such as the one used during the Hurricane Harvey of 911. The calling code facilitated communication between the victims, the public, and the emergency professionals. It assisted and will continue to help in the rescue mission, particularly of those who could become trapped under rubble. The application of the social media platforms in this context explains the direct relations they have with their usefulness.

An item or a product can only be useful when it achieves the purpose for which it was designed to accomplish. It can also be helpful when it improves the effectiveness and efficiency of the activities undertaken. A social media platform such as Facebook can only be useful when it makes the work of the user easy by helping in the achievement of a particular objective. When that connection is not there, no satisfaction will be derived from it.

Similarly, ease of use of the social media platforms is accomplishing because of the high rate of application in communication. The increasing emphasis on technology in communication is forcing many people to know how to use and operate devices such as phones and computers through which social media platforms run. They recognize that for effective use of the platforms to be realized, some basic skills and knowledge of equipment, smartphones, and other networking tools are necessary even before narrowing down to social media platforms.

Without technology skills, social media platforms could not be brought under control and put to use, and the intended result difficult to achieve. When the use of social media in disaster communication had not gained momentum people could suffer, yet, they had a platform through which they could have sought help. Stakeholders are working to equip people with the necessary skills for using social media to avert suffering disaster related incidences, given that technology enabled platforms are readily available. They can form the new frontier in the field of communication. Initiatives may continue enhancing the ease of use of the social media platforms for individuals from different backgrounds and in different countries.

The use of social media should continue because it provides access to peers and other prominent individuals and organizations in society. It allows interaction among peers at the professional or technical level. The interactions promote teamwork that is necessary for handling crisis situations. Globally, the effective sharing of information is considered as a step towards finding lasting solutions. Psychologists hold that a problem shared is a problem half solved. They believe in the power of interaction among peers given that such actions lead to the development of credible solutions to situations, however difficult they may seem. For instance, the EM professionals use the platforms to seek advice on how to deal with or handle certain situations. The public also uses social media to share information about the missing persons and helps others find their missing relatives. Apart from that, it gives users the opportunity to update others about the status of the situation and the prevailing circumstances.

The next conclusion that will remain important for policy and decision makers is that there is an acute relationship between the EM demographic characteristics and the use of social media in communicating disaster. This study revealed that age, gender, and location (that translate into primary demographic characteristics) impact how social media is used. Younger generations (falling between the ages of 15 and 40 years old) are the leading users of social media. They use the platforms frequently and for various purposes that include sharing official messages, pictures, social messages, and performing work-related communications. The number of users in this age bracket is higher compared to the older generations that are not as enthusiastic when it comes to social media usage.

Gender is another factor that affects the use of social media. More women are heavy users of social media (at most times), compared to men. However, the content they share mostly touches on relationships and social issues, while men are broad regarding the scope of what they share. Men also share more specific information about events. Therefore, there is a need for all the users of social media to be sensitized to the importance of sharing events that happen within their locality. Additionally, location influences the way in which people communicate, the methods of communication, and the speed of information flow. Those within a town typically find it easy to communicate because of network availability, as compared to those in remote areas who are affected by various factors including weak network coverage.

Those close to the cities also have the opportunity of using multiple social media networks, as compared to those in remote areas whose choices are limited. The reason behind this is that some media platforms do not have broad coverage in remote areas due to weak network signals. The facts affirm the need for organizations to understand that age, gender, and location affect the quality of information sharing, and therefore, organizations should act accordingly by streamlining operations, motivating more people among the youths and adults to continue or find more reasons for using the media platforms and mitigate the issues to which location differences contribute.

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Takahashi, B., &Tandoc, E. C. (2014). Social media use in the face of disaster: An exploration

Of communication practices among stakeholders affected by typhoon Haiyan. Boulder, CO: Natural hazards center. Retrieved from:

https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=NrSfAQAACAAJ&dq=social+media+and+disaster +communication&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2ssXAwKfZAhXChKYKHb_

Thomson, R., Ito, N., Suda, H., Lin, F., Liu, Y., Hayasaka, R., & Wang, Z. (2012). Trusting tweets: The Fukushima disaster and information source credibility on Twitter. Proceedings of the 9th International ISCRAM Conference, 4(6), 1-10. Retrieved from, http://www.academia.edu/1553706/Trusting_Tweets_The_Fukushima_Disaster_and_Info rmation_Source_Credibility_on_Twitter

Tinker, T., Dumlao, M., & McLaughlin, G. (2017). Risk communication and social media: Tips and best practices for using new tools to communicate effectively. Retrieved from http://www.disaster resource.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=839&Itemid=51

Torr, D. (2017). Why is social media important? 7 Reasons you can’t ignore. Retrieved from: https://blog.hootsuite.com/why-is-social-media-important-for-business/

Veil, S. R., Buehner, T. & Palenchar, M. J. (2011). A work-in-process literature review: Incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5973.2011.00639.x

Velev, D. (2012). Use of social media in natural disaster management. Retrieved from,

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271585520_Use_of_social_media_in_natural_ Disaster_management

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Vieweg, S., Hughes, A. L., Starbird, K., & Palen, L. (2010). Microblogging during two natural hazards events: what twitter may contribute to situational awareness? Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1079-1088). ACM. Doi:10.1145/1753326.1753486

Vishwanath, A. & Rao, H. R. (2014). Re-tweeting the Fukushima nuclear radiation disaster. Communications of the ACM, 57(1st Ed), 78-85. Doi: 10.1145/2500881

Volpp, L. (2013). The Boston bombers. Fordham Law Review, 82. Retrieved from: http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/Boston-marathon- bombings-research-lessons#sthash.2XWkLBcA.dpufWasike, B. S. (2013). Framing news in 140 characters: How social media editors frame the news and interact with audiences via Twitter. Global media journal, 6(1), 5-10.

Weatheringham, J. (2017). Why clear operational definitions are critical for data analysis success. Tech Republic. Retrieved from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/whyclear- operation-definitions-are-critical-for-data-analytics-success/

White, C. (2016). Social media, crisis communication, and emergency management:

Leveragingweb. New York, NY: CRC Press. Retrieved from:

https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=T3_RBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=social +media+and+disaster+communication&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2ssXAwKfZAhX ChKYKHb_IAMcQ6AEILTAB#v=onepage&q=social%20media%20and%20disaster%2 0communication&f=false

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Whittaker, J., McLennan, B., & Handmer, J. (2015). A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of disaster risk reduction, 13, 358-368. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.07.010

Wicks, D. (2015). Role of social media marketing in business. Retrieved from, https://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/role-social-media-marketing-business

Wigley, S., & Fontenot, M. (2011). The Gifford shooting in Tucson: Exploring citizen- generated versus news media content in crisis management. Public relations review, 37(4), 337-344.Doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.07.004

Yin, R. K. (2013). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks,, CA: Sage

Publications, Inc. Retrieved from:

https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=OgyqBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Resea rch+Design&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjTpbPvpJjZAhUjM8AKHYj- BvMQ6AEIPjAE#v=onepage&q=Research%20Design&f=false

Zeng, L., Starbird, K., & Spiro, E. S. (2016). Rumors at the speed of light? Modeling the rate of rumor transmission during crisis. System sciences (HICSS), 2016 49th Hawaii International conference, 3(2), 1969-1978. doi:10.1109/HICSS.2016.248

Zubiaga, A., Liakata, M., Procter, R., Hoi, G. W. S., & Tolmie, P. (2016). Analyzing how people orient to and spread rumors in social media by looking at conversational threads. PloS one, 11(3), doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150989

APPENDIX A: STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL WORK

Academic Honesty Policy

Capella University’s Academic Honesty Policy (3.01.01) holds learners accountable for the integrity of work they submit, which includes but is not limited to discussion postings, assignments, comprehensive exams, and the dissertation or capstone project.

Established in this policy are the expectations for original work, rationale for the policy, definition of terms that pertain to academic honesty and original work, and disciplinary consequences of academic dishonesty. Also stated in this policy is the expectation that learners will follow APA rules for citing another person’s ideas or works.

The following standards for original work and definition of plagiarism are discussed in the Policy:

Learners are expected to be the sole authors of their work and to acknowledge the authorship of others’ work through proper citation and reference. Use of another person’s ideas, including another learner’s, without proper reference or citation constitutes plagiarism and academic dishonesty and is prohibited conduct. (p. 1)

Plagiarism is one example of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s ideas or work as your own. Plagiarism also includes copying verbatim or rephrasing ideas without properly acknowledging the source by author, date, and publication medium. (p. 2)

Capella University’s Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06) holds learners accountable for research integrity. What constitutes research misconduct is discussed in the Policy:

Research misconduct includes but is not limited to falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, misappropriation, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. (p. 1)

Learners failing to abide by these policies are subject to consequences, including but not limited to dismissal or revocation of the degree.

Statement of Original Work and Signature

I have read, understood, and abided by Capella University’s Academic Honesty Policy (3.01.01) and Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06), including Policy Statements, Rationale, and Definitions.

I attest that this dissertation or capstone project is my own work. Where I have used the ideas or words of others, I have paraphrased, summarized, or used direct quotes following the guidelines set forth in the APA Publication Manual.

Learner name and date

Allen Kigigha 5/28/2018

APPENDIX A: SURVEY QUESIONNAIRE

Survey Questions

Current use and Intent to use social media

Not aware

(1)

Will Never Use

(2)

Unlikely

(3)

Not sure

(4)

Likely

(5)

Very Likely

(6)

Current User

(7)

Restricted online communities

Wikis

You Tube

Facebook

Podcasting

Blogs

Twitter

Frequency of Social Media Usage

Never

(1)

Rarely

(2)

Monthly

(3)

Once a Week

(4)

3 Times a week

(5)

Daily

(6)

Many times a day

(7)

What is your overall frequency of using social media to contribute crisis management knowledge to other EM professionals?

What is your overall frequency of using social media to seek specific information about a crisis problem/situation?

What is your overall frequency of using social media to scan/explore disaster and crisis management knowledge for new insights?

Attitudes towards social Media Usage

When sharing disaster and crisis issues and knowledge with other EM professionals, using social media is _____________.

Please indicate where you fall along the following dimensions in your attitude towards the use of social media.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Waste of time Essential Use

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Very risky Very Beneficial

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Boring Very Engaging

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Bad way to get current information great way to get current info

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Returns Low quality information Returns high quality information

Usefulness

Using Social Media…

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

… enables me to accomplish job tasks more effectively.

… improves my job performance

… Increases my job productivity.

…enables me to handle crisis more effectively

… Helps improve the quality of my crisis response and disaster management.

Ease of Use

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

Learning to use social media was easy for me

It was easy for me to become skillful at using social media

I find social media easy to use.

Advance the profession

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

I feel that it is important to help others to advance the professional community

It’s important to help my professional community succeed

When people share knowledge, the entire professional community benefits

Access to peers

Statement

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

There is a strong EM professional community that I can access using social media

There is a critical mass of other EM professionals that I can reach using social media

People in my profession who are important to me encourage the use of social media

People in my profession who have an influence on me encourage the use of social media

Barriers

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

I am too busy to participate in social media

I don't have time to learn how to use social media for professional purposes

I am concerned that using social media will consume too much time once I get started

Demographics

Alabama

Arizona

California

Arkansas

Hawaii

Georgia

Florida

Area currently located

Male

Female

Identify your gender

18-24

25-32

33-45

46-60

61 and above

Current age group

Personal Innovativeness

Statement

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Agree

Strongly Agree

I actively seek new ways to use social media in my practice

I usually find out about new social media applications earlier than others

APPENDIX B: Research Problems

2.1 Research Problem Background (3 paragraphs)

Provide a brief SUMMARY of your review of the research literature on the topic. This should include citations from at least 10 articles, but should indicate that you have performed a full review of the literature (minimum of 75 articles) on the topic. This should be demonstrated by providing a statement about the body of existing literature on the topic, then, summarizing recent research findings on the topic, highlighting the findings that are most relevant to your proposed study, demonstrating how your proposed research could add to the existing literature on the topic. Be sure to provide appropriate in text citations and include references in the reference section.

• Use current (within 5-7 years), scholarly, PRIMARY resources to support statements.

• Use APA style in citing all resources.

• This will not be your full dissertation literature review but an initial foundation. You will continue to add to your literature review throughout your dissertation process.

Social media gives new routes of information flow and a means to assist those in need of information during a disaster, including survivors, responders, volunteers and the general public (Palen et al., 2009). Disaster responders can use social media in tracking volunteers, reconnecting families, and to disseminate critical information (Armour, 2010). During a disaster, social media platforms can also be seen as awareness features which alert others of the safety of those affected by the crisis (Palen et al., 2009). Its adoption by professional agencies has however been selective and it is a goal of this research study to evaluate the motivations or derailments to the adoption (Palen et al., 2009).

The use of technology during disasters has expanded recently. In 2001, during the 9/11 attacks in the United States, cell phones were the then-new technology used to communicate during the emergency. In the 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami, people made use of SMS, or text messaging during the disaster (Nelson et al., 2010). SMS and cell phone service mark the beginning of communication technology use by victims of a disaster during the disaster and its subsequent relief efforts (Nelson et al., 2010). In2005, Hurricane Katrina social media became even more prevalent in facilitating disaster relief (Nelson et al., 2010). Through social media use, collective online knowledge facilitated in finding missing persons, as well as locating emergency housing. It was also used to coordinate volunteers participating in disaster relief (Nelson et al., 2010). Similar uses of social media occurred during and after the shootings at the Virginia Tech campus in 2007 (Palen et al., 2009).

Gupta, Lamba and Kumaraguru (2013) looked at the nearly eight million relevant tweets that were posted during the days between the bombing at the Boston Marathon until the capture of suspects in Watertown and concluded that Twitter was filled with lies (Martin & Williams, 2014). Twenty-nine percent of all tweets posted and reposted were rumors and fake content. It has been found that rumors or fake information passed via social media has led to information chaos and damage to people in the real world (Carter, 2013).Bleiberg (2013) noted, “People tweeting from the scene did not just include published authors and reporters: several journalism students contributed, as did the political director for Russel Simmons, along with a man stuck inside his home in Watertown” (par.6). Accordingly, in the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombing, broadcasting stations and online newspapers struggled to keep up with the urgency and fast-paced surge of information, the public turned to Twitter for raw, unfiltered (and unconfirmed) updates from eyewitnesses to the bombings, and later to the manhunt in Watertown and Cambridge (Sutton, Gibson, Spiro, League, Fitzhugh & Butts, 2015; Johnston, 2015; Kaul, 2013).

When a crisis event occurs, people take on an active information-seeking role (Olsson, 2014). Unfortunately, to meet this need, crisis managers have turned to traditional and new media tactics to use online (Bundy& Pfarrer, 2015).Social media gives the audience unprecedented control in what they read, in how they respond, and in whether they choose to act (Alexander, 2014; Bundy& Pfarrer, 2015; Bleiberg, 2013; Kaul, 2013).

References

Alexander, D. (2014). Social media in disaster risk reduction and crisis management. Science & Engineering Ethics, 20 (3), 717-733. doi:10.1007/s11948-013-9502-z

Armour, G. (2010). Communities communicating with formal and informal systems: Being more resilient in times of need. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 36(5), 34-38. Doi: Article.

Bleiberg, B. (2013, April 19). Boston Bombing Manhunt: Twitter found the Boston shooters before CNN. PolicyMic.Retrieved from:http://www.policymic.com/articles/36417/boston-bombing-manhunt-twitterfound-the-boston-shooters-before-cnn.

Bundy, J. & Pfarrer, M. D. (2015). A burden of responsibility: The role of social approval at the onset of a crisis. Academy of Management Review, 40 (3), 345 -369. doi:10.5465/amr.2013.0027

Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. criticizes the news media after several mistaken reports of an arrest. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html

Gupta, A., Lamba, H. & Kumaraguru, P. (2013, October 20). $1.00 per RT#BostonMarathon #PrayForBoston: Analyzing fake content on Twitter. Retrieved from:http://precog.iiitd.edu.in/Publications_files/ecrs2013_ag_hl_pk.pdf

Johnston, J. (2015). 'Loose tweets sink fleets' and other sage advice: social media governance, policies and guidelines. Journal Of Public Affairs (14723891), 15 (2), 175 -187. doi:10.1002/pa.1538

Kaul, V. (2013). Plugging in: New PR technologies. SCMS Journal Of Indian Management, 10 (1), 33-53.

Martin, A. & Williams, J. (2014). Public-Private partnership from theory to practice: Walgreens and the Boston public health commission supporting each other before and after the Boston bombings. Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 7(3), 205-220.

Nelson, A., Sigal, I., &Zambrano, D. (2010). Media, information systems and communities: Lessons from Haiti. Retrieved from http://www.knightfoundation.org/research_publications/2011-01- Haiti/kf_haiti_report_english_cx2.pdf

Olsson, E. (2014). Crisis communication in public organizations: Dimensions of crisis communication revisited. Journal Of Contingencies & Crisis Management, 22 (2), 113 -125. doi:10.1111/1468-5973.12047

Sutton, J., Gibson, C. B., Spiro, E. S., League, C., Fitzhugh, S. M. & Butts, C. T. (2015). What it takes to get passed on: Message content, style, and structure as predictors of retransmission in the Boston marathon bombing response. Plos ONE, 10 (8), 1-20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134452

APPENDIX C: Research Questions and Hypothesis

5.5 Research Hypotheses

For each quantitative question and sub-question in Item 1.5, list hypotheses for their investigation. Give nulls and alternates for each sub-question. Use appropriate nomenclature for the hypotheses.

RQ1. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community?

Ho1: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community.

Ha1: There is a statistically significant relationship between EM professionals use of social media to share or exchange crisis information with other EM professionals and/or pertinent members of the community.

RQ2. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers?

Ho2: There is no statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

Ha2: There is a statistically significant relationship between the application of social media in disaster and risk communications and the following: usefulness, ease of use, personal innovativeness, advancement of the profession, access to peers, and barriers.

RQ3. To what extent is there a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms?

Ho3: There is no statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms.

Ha3: There is a statistically significant relationship between EM demographic characteristics of age, gender, or location, and use of social media platforms.

APPENDIX D: Research Design

4.1 Research Design

Describe the research design you will use.

Start by specifically stating the type of quantitative research design you will use (non-experimental, quasi-experimental, experimental), include the exact name or type of design to be used, and describe the exact method(s) (archival, survey, observations) you will use to collect the data. Briefly describe how the study will be conducted.

Briefly describe the research philosophy underlying your study and the ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological assumptions of your design.

 The Research Design should be clearly identified.

 The Research Design should be appropriate to the Research Question.

• Use current (within 5-7 years), scholarly, PRIMARY resources to support statements.

• Use APA style in citing all resources.

This research takes a quantitative, non-experimental design.

How does the concept align with the theories

The primary purpose of this research is to study the applicationof social media in disaster risk communication. The researcher will also evaluate the impact of the information shared through social media on emergency and disaster communication (Volpp, 2013). This will be conducted by quantitatively surveying experienced emergency management professional, having been the ones who disseminate the information and being the ones who perceive the immediate impact directly (Veil et al., 2011).Online questionnaires are the most appropriate method of this quantitative design and will be utilized by the principal investigator in this study. The proposed methodology will ensure that the dynamic and changing nature of reports in social media is addressed (Hajli, 2015)

The proposed research will rest on three assumptions.

  1. The first is that each of the respondents will give an honest opinion
  2. It is assumed that the participants will completely understand each of the terms used in the survey.
  3. It is also assumed that study participants will see participation as a way to guidefuture practice and provide thoughtful feedback. (Coughlan, Cronin & Ryan, 2009).

References:

Borah, P. (2011). Conceptual issues in Framing Theory: A systematic examination of a decade's literature. Journal of Communication, 61(2), 246 -263. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01539.x.

Chong, D. &Druckman, J.N. (2007). Framing Theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 10, 103 -126.

Hajli, N. (2015). Handbook of research on integrating social media into strategic marketing. Hershey, PA : Business Science Reference

Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as the theory of media effects.Journal of Communication, Winter, 103 -112.

Veil, S. R., Buehner, T. & Palenchar, M. J. (2011). A work-in-process literature review: Incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication. Journal of Contingenciesand Crisis Management, 19(2), 110 -121. doi: 10.111/j.1468-5973.2011.00639.x.

Volpp, L. (2013). The Boston bombers. Fordham Law Review, 82. Retrieved fromhttp://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/boston-marathon-bombings-research-lessons#sthash.2XWkLBcA.dpuf

Coughlan, M., Cronin, P. & Ryan, F. (2009). Survey research: Process and limitations. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 16(1), 9-15. Retrieved from:http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/ijtr.2009.16.1.37935

APPENDIX E: Population and Sample

4.2 Population and Sample

Describe the characteristics of the larger population from which the sample (study participants) will be drawn. Include specific data/statistics.

State the estimated sample size and your method of determining the sample size needed for the study.

State the sampling strategy (probability or non-probability), the specific method (random, purposive, convenience, etc.), then describe the sample inclusion and exclusion criteria.

• Use current (within 5-7 years), scholarly, PRIMARY resources to support statements.

• Use APA style in citing all resources.

It is imperative for the investigator to identify the characteristics of the target population while at the same time being mindful of his goals (Creswell, 2009, p. 50). The population sampled should also reflect the objectives of the research. Even though quantitative research designs typically entail large amounts of data, surveying the whole population may be quite onerous, especially if the target population is quite large. An adequately selected smaller sample can be used to represent this population. The target populations for the study are the emergency managers active at the International association of emergency manager’s online platform (iaem.org), with a total population of 103 (IAEM, 2017).Using the sample size calculator from raosoft’s (Raosoft.com), with the confidence interval or the margin of error of 0.05, response distribution of 50% and a confidence level of 95% the sample size population of this study becomes 82 emergency managers from the international association of emergency managers (IAEM) (Pickard, 2012).

Inclusion Criteria

Participants will be eligible based on their

· Their occupation (emergency managers).

· Their experience (Minimum of five years in the profession)

· Professional Training and experience

Sampling

Researchers should consider cluster sampling unless it is impractical to gather the list of components of the population being studied (Tamis-LeMonda, Briggs, McClowry and Snow, 2008; Wolverton, 2009).

This research survey will entail non-probability sampling. As Flicker (2016) noted, non-probability samples, also called convenience samples, apply when either the probability of participation cannot be determined or has been left up to each individual to choose to take part. “A web survey may simply be posted on a website where it is left up to those browsing through the site to decide to participate in the survey (‘opt in’) (Flicker, 2006, p. 7).

Whereas quantitative researchers regard probability sampling techniques as more superior, it is always wise to tie the sampling method to the research strategy being preferred (Collins, 2006).

Establishing the correct sample size is crucial for the statistical analysis with considerations of power, population, effect size, and level of significance (Collins, 2006).

Aside from using the raosoft’s sample size calculator, Bordens and Abbot (2014), calculates the correct sample size using the formula

N ≥8m +50 where N is the sample population, and m is the number of independent variables (IV).

Thus, the required sample for this population would be

8(4)+50

N=82

Thus, for this research, 82 respondents are required to participate in the study. (Creswell, 2013).

References

Bordens, K. S., & Abbott, B. B. (2014). Research design and methods: A process approach. McGraw-Hill.

Cohen, J. (1992). Statistical power analysis. Current directions in psychological science, 1(3), 98-101.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. Sage Publications.

International association of emergency managers (IAEM). (2017). IAEM website – Global council. Iaem.com. Retrieved from https://www.iaem.com

Pickard, A. (2012). Research methods in information. Facet Publishing.

Raosoft’s. (2017). Web survey software, online surveys, email surveys from raosoft’s, Inc. Retrieved from http://raosoft.com

Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Briggs, R. D., McClowry, S. G., & Snow, D. L. (2008). Challenges to the study of African American parenting: Conceptualization, sampling, research approaches, measurement, and design. Parenting: Science & Practices, 8(4), 319-358.

Wolverton, M. L. (2009). Research design, hypothesis testing, and sampling. The Appraisal Journal, 77(4), 370-382.

Fricker, D. (2016). Sampling methods for online surveys. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.720.4424&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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