MCUrgent, MORRIS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE DURING IRENE

MCUrgent, Morris County's shared emergency information network launched by the Morris Freeholders last year, played an important role in getting vital information out to county residents, said county officials. 

“MCUrgent was certainly put to the test by Hurricane Irene before, during and after the storm, and it passed with high marks,” said John Bonanni, Morris County Administer.   

MCUrgent is used by the county Office of Emergency Management and several municipalities to quickly disseminate information to the public about widespread emergencies.  That could include information regarding flooding, evacuations, road closures and other weather-related information, which it did during Irene.

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Carol Spencer of the county’s Information Services Department said she tweeted or posted nearly 250 emergency information messages on MCUrgent as well as on the county government website MorrisCountyNJ.gov, and the OEM website, MorrisOEM.org during Irene.  Those weather-related emergency messages were also sent out through Twitter and Facebook, Spencer said.

The emergency messages that were posted on Facebook for MCUrgent and MorrisCountyNJ from Aug. 25 through Aug. 28 had more than 72,000 “views,” Spencer said.

Statistics are not yet available for similar emergency messages that were posted on Twitter.com/MCUrgent, the county government website MorrisCountyNJ.gov or the MorrisOEM.org Hurricane Irene blog.

“The numbers clearly show the power social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have in getting emergency information out to the public in a timely fashion,” Bonanni said.

 

Facebook requires an account to see messages, while Twitter is a social network that allows posts to be read by anyone. For those who prefer text messages, Twitter's "Fast Follow" sends tweets directly to a phone without requiring a subscription.

The freeholders have offered the emergency information network to each of the 39 towns in the county as a shared service, Bonanni said.  Towns that want to participate have authorized personnel trained by county staff. 

According to Spencer, the county has trained personnel from Chatham Borough, Denville, Dover, Florham Park, Harding, Morris Township, Mt. Arlington, Mt. Olive, Parsippany, Pequannock, Riverdale and Washington Township, with several other towns being scheduled for training in the coming months. Once trained, those personnel can then post their own emergency information.   

During and in the days following Hurricane Irene, information about such incidents as road closures, power outages, rising river levels and emergency shelters in Morris County towns was posted to the MCUrgent network. 

The emergency messages and situation updates can be immediately accessed from a phone, a desktop or laptop computer by a citizen via Twitter, Facebook or text message, Spencer said.

MCUrgent posts go directly to Facebook.com/MCUrgent, Twitter.com/MCUrgent, and also appear on the county Web site, MorrisCountyNJ.gov.  Texting “follow mcurgent” to 40404 brings MCUrgent posts right to an individual’s phone.                                                           

Citizens with Twitter accounts can participate by using hashtags that identify the town location in their tweets. The preferred list of hashtags may be viewed at www.MorrisCountyNJ.gov/mcurgent/mcurgent-hashtags.pdf.

Facebook users can “like” the MCUrgent and MorrisCountyNJ pages, then comment on county postings, which can be shared.  Before Hurricane Irene, MCUrgent was “liked” by 617 fans.  After the storm, that number jumped to 942. Additionally, more than 2,300 Twitter followers on MCUrgent or MorrisCountyNJ received each message, Spencer said.

Detailed information and downloadable MCUrgent posters may be found at MorrisCountyNJ.gov/mcurgent/socialmedia-mcurgent.asp

Spencer said the posters could be hung in offices, schools, libraries, municipal buildings and other facilities to better inform the public about the MCUrgent emergency information network.

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