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During Emergencies, Social Media is Critical Channel for Warnings


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Checking messages on a smartphone.

A study by Texas A&M University researchers found that about a quarter of residents of Deer Park, TX, living near the Intercontinental Terminal Company petrochemical facility when it burned in March 2019 received no warnings of the disaster.

Credit: Getty Images

An analysis of responses to the 2019 Deer Park, TX, chemical fire by Texas A&M University researchers revealed that people who were warned of the disaster via social media, friends, and family were most likely to act.

Television was the most common way residents learned about shelter-in-place orders after social media, while warnings failed to reach about 25% of surveyed residents; outdoor sirens were the least effective warning tool.

The high likelihood of warnings relayed through social media, friends, and family prompting action compared to other sources correlated with earlier research indicating that people more readily follow the recommendations of those they know and trust than from local, state, and federal government agencies.

The Texas A&M researchers also recommended that risk communications should factor in differences in the level of knowledge that experts and laypeople have, along with variations in risk perception.

From Texas A&M Today
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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