As Hurricane Maria approached the Caribbean this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) used Twitter to disseminate information about the shelters. And when a powerful earthquake rocked Mexico on Tuesday, the State Department tweeted an emergency message on how to call the US Embassy. After the explosion at Parsons Green tube station in London last week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, posted a declaration on Facebook, confirming that the “bucket bomb” was being treated as terrorism.
Sometimes organizations rely on social media to deliver messages when their own websites are slow because the National Hurricane Center It was when he experienced overwhelming traffic during Hurricane Irma. Other times, ways to help organic social media bubbles. In 2015, when Islamic State militants attacked Paris, people used the hashtag #PorteOuverte (âopen doorâ) to provide safe shelter.
The key to using Twitter and Facebook in travel emergencies is choosing the right people, groups, and companies to follow. Misinformation is common. So who can you trust?
Below is a beginner’s guide to finding the most useful accounts. A word of warning: Sometimes a social media account looks official even if it has nothing to do with the organization or person you’re looking for. On Twitter, one way to tell you have the correct account is to look for a blue verified badge, which indicates the account is genuine (although verification can take a while, so not all legitimate accounts have them). Facebook has gray verification badges. Another way to find what you are looking for is to search online for the person or organization you want, such as the Paris Tourist Office, then sign in to that organization’s social media account (@Paris I love you on Twitter; @ p.infos on Facebook) from their official website.
You can follow your favorite weather outing, but if you want the latest news from the horse’s mouth, follow the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationNational Weather Service Twitter account, @NWS, which provides regular storm updates, including crucial information during this busy hurricane season. You can also follow the service’s regional and related accounts, such as the National Weather Service San Juan (@NWSSanJuan) and the National Hurricane Center Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantique), although @NWS often retweets the most important updates from these accounts. On September 20, the National Weather Service retweeted @NWSSanJuan’s post at 7:17 a.m. stating that the San Juan metro area would experience winds of 115 miles per hour or more for the next two to three hours. The main National Hurricane Center account for the service is @NWSNHC.
Some meteorologists use their own accounts to provide outlook on storms. During Irma, Taylor Trogdon (@TTrogdon), a senior scientist in the storm surge unit at the National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Surge), said on Twitter that when he looked at satellite images of the hurricane he was “at a loss for words.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (@CDCgov) publishes health and safety updates. After Irma, he tweeted a connect its food and water safety guidelines, as well as house cleaning recommendations.
FEMA (@fema), provides information on what it does before, during and after emergencies, and how you can get help.
The Department of State’s Office for Consular Affairs issues travel-related safety messages, from planned events to weather-related evacuations, to @TravelGov. For example, this week, before Hurricane Maria, he tweeted that US citizens should leave the Turks and Caicos Islands if possible.
You can also follow your local emergency management office. In New York, for example, the Emergency Management flow is @nycoem. This week he retweeted @NotifyNYC, the city’s official emergency notification system, about a coastal flood warning in effect for Brooklyn and Queens, and has published articles on the effects of Hurricane Jose on New Yorkers.
Feeds from local fire and police departments are also helpful. After the recent attack on Parsons Green in London, the Metropolitan Police Service (@metpoliceuk) tweeted updates on the investigation and the threat level changes. In the Florida Keys, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (@mcsonews) has posted links on hurricane recovery as well as curfew and checkpoint information. Tracking such accounts can also keep you posted on areas that may have a larger police presence or street closures.
Transportation and accommodation
Nationally and internationally, there are a variety of accounts to follow, including @Amtrak and @RailEurope, bus lines (like @GreyhoundBus and @MegaBus), cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean (@RoyalCaribbean) and Norwegian Cruise Line (@ Norwegian Cruise), automotive services, such as @Uber and @Lyft, and, of course, airports and airlines. Even if you only fly with one airline, it can be useful to keep track of a few. For example, Monday @United tweeted that it was canceling some flights and offering travel waivers to and from San Juan, PR Even if you’re not traveling with United, their tweets might alert you to the possibility that your own carrier is taking similar action.
Airbnb (@Airbnb and @AirbnbHelp) can be useful even if you are not a member. The company has a disaster response program that helps people find temporary housing. For example, this week he tweeted that he was using the program to help those affected by the earthquake in Mexico, allowing Airbnb members to open homes for free to displaced neighbors and aid workers.
When planning a visit to a city, remember to follow the airports, train stations, bus lines, tourist offices, and embassies that are located there. Also remember to follow your favorite hotels. They can sometimes be sources of emergency information. More often than not, it’s a way to stay on top of minor events, like renovations or a marathon or local celebration.
Booking sites like @Expedia and @Priceline post relevant emergency information as well, and if you’ve booked part of your trip with them, you’ll want to keep up to date with any changes. The main Transportation Security Administration Twitter account is @TSA, although you can’t find a lot of up-to-the-minute travel information. (See the accounts in the categories below for this.) The Administration’s most useful Twitter account is @AskTSA, which answers questions, often about what can be packed in hand luggage.
You can also follow your local transport organizations. For example, in New York, useful accounts include the MTA subway service (@NYCTSubway), the Taxi and Limousine Commission (@nyctaxi) and the New York and New Jersey Port Authority (@PANYNJ). In some cities, such as London, there is a general Twitter account for Transport for London (@TfL), as well as for specific tube lines, including the center line (@ central line) and the Piccadilly line (@piccadillyline).
Local administrations and tourist offices
Tracking local government accounts in your hometown, as well as those in places you plan to travel, can also provide up-to-date information. Throughout Hurricane Irma, for example, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, diligently posted updates, including to its Facebook page (@MonroeCountyFLBOCC).
However, not all public accounts are equally useful. Sometimes tourist office accounts provide better or more complete information.
Twitter alerts, Facebook security checks and more
Use the Twitter Alerts function to get information in case of emergency. You choose which individual accounts you want to receive alerts from, and if any of those accounts mark a tweet as an alert, you receive a notification on your mobile phone. (Alerts on your Twitter timeline appear with an orange bell.)
In an emergency, Facebook activates its Security controle tool, which prompts users to let friends and family know they are safe, and to find or provide help to others.
This list is just a getting started guide. There are many other useful places, including travel agencies and bloggers. And of course you can follow the news outlets (the Miami Herald and Orlando Sentry were particularly useful during Irma).
Once you follow a few trusted sources, you will find that in addition to posting their own information, they also post information from sources they trust. For example, if you follow London Ambulance (@Ldn_Ambulance), you’ll likely also see tweets originally posted by the London Fire Department (@LondonFire) and Terrorism Police UK (@TerrorismPolice).
Do you have your own favorite sources? Tweet me @stephronyt.