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Twitter: Who to Follow in a Disaster


Even if you are not a normal Twitter user, I suggest getting an account and following a few folks for times of emergency. Assuming you still have access to cell service and a method of keeping your cell phone charged (solar chargers are cheap these days), it can be a great way of knowing what’s going on very quickly. Twitter users seems to have become the fastest citizen journalists of the day.

When a news outlet wants to “break” a story fast and beat the competition, they seem to Tweet first, post on their own website second. Their Twitter space seems to be where they want to race to win first, because afterall, if they don’t hurry up and Tweet it, some 18yo with an I-phone and 15,000 followers might beat them. That’s just how it is today.

So, if you do use Twitter, just create a “List” for your emergency information, so it’s not bogging down your daily feed. You could even create multiple lists for types of emergency information that you want sorted, i.e., “Current Events,” which may include the BBC, AP, CNN and your city’s newspaper feeds; “Weather Events,” with NOAA and the Weather Channel and then “Emergency Preparedness,” with all your FEMA, Emergency Mangement Agencies, etc.

The cool thing is, after you have your list, you can share it with friends, family. I am still working on mine or I would go ahead and share it. 🙂

And also, remember, if a disaster or emergency strikes, begin right away looking for the key hashtags being used to collect data and information. If you are creating a hashtag, be mindful of the tags that are already being used to help collect and gather information that is useful to others. If you are one of the first people Tweeting, be mindful of the tags you are creating and make them sensible to others who make be following and then looking for information. “#NAMEACITYtornado” would make sense, but #barelysurvivedyouwouldn’tbelievethestress really isn’t a hashtag that serves any purpose and wouldn’t help anyone find your Tweet of the information you are sharing.

Here is an article on the use of hashtags during disasters.

Here are some of my favorites to get things going:

News Sources

@bbcbreaking – BBC breaking news

@cnnbrk – CNN breaking news

@ap – Associated press

@orlandosentinel – My hometown paper. It’s not a bad idea to subscribe to papers all along your evacuation routes.

Emergency Sources

@dhsgov – Homeland Security – Total bore, but I keep hoping in the event of a real disaster they’d actually use this for something significant.

@NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
@NWS: The National Weather Service
@readygov:  Preparation Tips. Basic stuff, but a lot of non-basic stuff too. Some of the stuff on their website is downright scary. Goes into pandemics, terrorist attacks by biological agents, nuclear accidents and more. You just would be a little surprised at what they are asking you to prepare for.
@fema: The Federal Emergency Management.

@CDCemergency: The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

@redcross: The American Red Cross

@orangecosheriff – Orange County Sheriff – You would want to find your local law enforcement agencies in order to stay in tune with post-emergency instructions, road closures, and this sort of thing.

@ocfirerescue – Orange County Fire Dept

@osceolasheriff – Osceola County Sheriff

@flsert – florida emergency management

@georgiaema – Georgia Em.  Management – I don’t live in Georgia, but this could be along an evacuation route for me. I suggest doing the same based on where you live.

@alabamaema – Alabama Em. Management

@nycoem– NYC emergency management – With NYC having already foiled numerous terror plots since 9-11 and a favorite travel destination of many of us, staying in touch with what’s happening there seems appropriate. You may learn more about minor things like subway closures, so you may want to create a “list” for just NYC.

@mco – Orlando airport

Other Forms of Getting Information:

@wmfeorlando (public broadcasting)

 Sign Up for Orange County alerts via text or email:


Official Government Alerts will be put on Orange TV (Channel 199 on Brighthouse, Channel 9 on Comcast, Channel 99 AT&T U-Verse) –

Sign up for Florida Highway 511 Alerts by State, Region or Highway on Twitter at:






(other regions and highways are available if you go to the web link)

All these agencies have Facebook pages and you can also duplicate things there, although I personally suggest keeping your “official” feeds and your “personal” feeds separate. If there was a tornado, for instance,  and power was out, and your neighborhood wiped out, your family from out of state is going to want to know how you are.

Your social media may play a major role in that. You don’t want your personal social media account bogged down with the thousands of feeds this is going to generate. You DO want to be able to communicate with people in your neighborhood, your town, your state and out of state if at all possible.

Also, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. You should tailor this to YOUR area, your line of work, your neighborhood. If you have a good neighborhood association that gets information spread around fast, add it. Be wise. I just know that you can sometimes be the very first to know about something and possibly have an hours-long start on getting out of town or filling up your car with gas or getting in and out of a grocery store by merely being plugged into Twitter or being alerted instantly when something major happens.

Hurricane Season starts in June in Florida, but don’t wait until then to start getting prepared. The very nature of an “emergency” is exactly that. By the time something happens, it’s upon you. And when that happens, it’s probably upon thousands of other people too.


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