Analyzing the use of Twitter in hurricanes and floods: common approaches, lessons learned, and emerging trends

Authors: Volodymyr Mihunov*, Louisiana State University, Lei Zou, Texas A&M, Nina Lam, LSU, Zheye Wang, LSU, Kejin Wang, LSU, Dylan Govender, LSU
Topics: Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Twitter, social media, Hurricane Harvey, flooding, rescue
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Despite the increasingly prominent role of social media in disaster events, studies analyzing its use in rescue operations remain scanty. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas with unprecedented rainfall and flooding in 2017 and was marked by widespread use of social media for rescue requests. We conducted a survey of 195 Twitter users in Houston and surrounding communities who had requested for rescue during Harvey. The objective was to investigate our targeted group's socioeconomic and flood exposure characteristics, report the effectiveness of Twitter, and highlight lessons learnt and suggestions made for its use in future rescue missions. Survey revealed that those requesting rescue on Twitter were better educated, employed (80%), and homeowners (81%). Majority of them were flooded (87%), but remained satisfied with current location and did not consider moving. Calling relatives and friends for rescue was most responsive and yielded higher assistance-provided rate than using Twitter. Our respondents found Twitter helpful, but identified issues such as not knowing when volunteers received their requests or whether they would send help. They suggested promoting Twitter accounts and hashtags that accept emergency requests. This study provides baseline information and actionable suggestions for first responders, community managers, and resilience practitioners to improve future rescue missions.

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