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Use of Social Media During Public Emergencies by People with Disabilities

  • Author(s): Morris, John T.
  • Mueller, James L.
  • Jones, Michael L.
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction: People with disabilities are generally more vulnerable during disasters and publicemergencies than the general population. Physical, sensory and cognitive impairments may result ingreater difficulty in receiving and understanding emergency alert information, and greater difficulty intaking appropriate action. The use of social media in the United States has grown considerably inrecent years. This has generated increasing interest on the part of national, state and localjurisdictions in leveraging these channels to communicate public health and safety information. Howand to what extent people with disabilities use social and other communications media during publicemergencies can help public safety organizations understand the communication needs of thecitizens in their jurisdictions, and plan their social media and other communications strategiesaccordingly.

Methods: This article presents data from a survey on the use of social media and othercommunications media during public emergencies by people with disabilities conducted fromNovember 1, 2012 through March 30, 2013.

Results: The data presented here show four key results. First, levels of use of social media ingeneral are high for people with disabilities, as well as for the general population. Second, use ofsocial media during emergencies is still low for both groups. Third, levels of use of social media arenot associated with income levels, but are significantly and strongly associated with age: youngerpeople use social media at higher rates than older people in both groups (p,0.001). Fourth,differences in the use of social media during emergencies across disability types are slight, with theexception of deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents, the former more likely to have used social mediato receive (p¼0.002), verify (p¼0.092) and share (p¼0.007) emergency information.

Conclusion: These last two results suggest that effective emergency communications strategiesneed to rely on multiple media types and channels to reach the entire community. [West J EmergMed. 2014;15(5):567–574.]

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