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What 9/11 Taught Us about Communications and Social Media

on September 10, 2021

What Happened on September 11, 2001
:

„ At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City (911 Memorial, 2018).

„ John Murphy, CEO of Oppenheimer Funds, was jogging in Battery Park when he saw the smoke. He assumed that an airplane had inadvertently crashed into the World Trade Center (Argenti, 2002).

„ Mary Beth Bardin, executive vice-president of public affairs and communications at Verizon, was stuck in traffic when she noticed the smoke. She assumed that a building was on fire in downtown Manhattan. When the cab driver turned on the news, she learned that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center (Argenti, 2002).

„ Verizon suffered major communications damage. “The attack knocked out 300,000 voice access lines and 4.5 million data circuits and left ten cellular towers inactive, depriving 14,000 businesses and 20,000 residential customers of service” (Argenti, para. 9, 2002).

„ Communication breakdowns abounded during the emergency response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. 911 operators had no clue of what was actually happening. Orders to evacuate were misunderstood or not received. Telephone lines were jammed with callers. Signals to firefighter radios failed. Public address and intercom systems inside the World Trade Center went out (CBS News, 2004; Sharp, 2011).

„ Confusion and lack of situational awareness led to higher casualties. People in the South Tower were told not to evacuate and to wait for instructions and help from emergency personnel. Others evacuated up, toward the roof, not knowing that they needed a key to get onto the roof (CBS News, 2004).

„ A “long-standing rivalry between the NYPD and FDNY” (CBS News, para. 23, 2004) led to disputes over command authority. Fire and police personnel were using different radio channels and could not communicate with one another (CBS News, 2004; Sharp, 2011). A repeater system installed in the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing was not completely functional (Sharp, 2011). All of these issues were addressed in the 9/11 Commission Report.

* * *

People in New York City Knew Something was Happening, but They Didn’t Know What!

A lot of Changes have Happened Since 9/11:

Post-9/11, the Department of Homeland Security was created, and a National Incident Management System was established to designate clear lines of authority during disaster events.

„ The role of Communications has evolved.

„ Better technologies have been developed.

„ The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social media networks has allowed two-way communication with the public.

„ Emergency managers now hire trained communication specialists to communicate accurate, timely information to the media, community and national leaders, and the public. (Haddow, 2017).

* * *

Why are these Changes Important?

„ New York City now has a state-of-the-art fire department operations center. During a disaster, the FDOC contacts other agencies for help. Personnel report to FDOC senior staff. The department’s incident management teams can be activated. FDOC can access NYPD videos, the Department of Transportation digital photographs, and live videos from media helicopters and ground vehicles. FDOC can monitor, record, and replay radio transmissions from Fire, EMS, NYPD, OEM, and others. FDOC can act as a command center. (Sharp, 2011)

„ FDNY now uses multi-frequency radio systems to communicate with each other and NYPD (Sharp, 2011).

„ Training in National Incident Management System processes is now mandatory to ensure that agencies are working together, using the same language, and sharing information with each other (Sharp, 2011).

„ The changes made in New York City have been duplicated in communities all across the country.

„ Community first responders now have social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to educate the public about disaster preparedness; relay accurate, timely information to the public during a disaster event; and help members of the community to register for disaster aid and find relief shelters (Haddow, 2017).

* * *

Use the Internet for Disaster Information:

„ In 2001, YouTube, Google News, Facebook, and Twitter did not exist (Praetorius, 2012).

„ Today, the Internet allows free access to all kinds of information:

„ Social networks like Facebook

„ Blogs like Blogger and WordPress

„ Microblogs like Twitter

„ Crowdsourcing and Forums like LiveJournal

„ Digital Mapping like Google Maps

„ Websites

„ Podcasts and TV and Radio broadcasts

„ Video Sharing like YouTube

„ Photo Sharing like Instagram

„ Wiki sites like Wikipedia (Haddow, 2017).

* * *

Participate with Social Media:

„ “Social media is imperative to emergency management because the public uses these communication tools regularly” (Haddow, p. 171, 2017).

„ Submitting videos, photos, digital maps, and information

„ Receiving information about casualties, injuries, and damage

„ Communicating with friends, family, and co-workers

„ Raising money for disaster relief

„ Learning about preparedness and evacuation routes

„ Receiving guidance, information, and moral support

„ Learning how to find relief shelters and registering for aid

„ Access to FEMA information

„ Access to press conferences and local news (Haddow, 2017).

* * *

Summing it all Up:

„ “The mission of an effective disaster communication strategy is to provide timely and accurate information to the public in all four phases of emergency management” (Haddow, p. 162, 2017).

„ “Information sharing is the basis of effective disaster communications” (Haddow, p. 191, 2017).

(This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC By-NC-ND)

* * *

Honor the Heroes!

(This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC By-NC-ND)

View the Power Point Presentation on Dropbox:

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 7, 2019

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

References

911Memorial. (2018). 9/11 Memorial Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.timeline.911memorial.org/#FrontPage.

Argenti, P. (2002, December). Crisis communication: Lessons from

9/11. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://www.hbr.org/2002/12/crisis-communication-lessons-

from-911.

Associated Press. (2004, May). Communication breakdown on

9/11. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/communication- breakdown-on-9-11.

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2017). Introduction to emergency management. (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier.

Praetorius, D. (2012, November). How social media would have changed new york on 9/11. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/social-media-9-11-new-York_b_ 1872764.

Sharp, K. (2011, September). Interoperability & other lessons from 9/11.

       Public Safety Communications. Retrieved from https://psc.apcointl.org/2011/09/06/911-10-years-later


7 responses to “What 9/11 Taught Us about Communications and Social Media

  1. Tanooki says:

    I can’t believe it’s been already 20 years since the tragedy happened…The good change is that yes, people can get news faster by using social media like you pointed out, but they have a dark side too…sometimes bad people spread rumors over the internet/social media and that makes people more frightened and panicked😥 Hope we can use social media in a good way👍

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Iowa Life says:

    Interesting, I didn’t know that about the lack of compatibility between fire and police. We always fix these things AFTER the disaster. Little scary what the next disaster might bring.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I believe the awakening is still happening. I love your diverse blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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