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Content, Accessibility, and Dissemination of Disaster Information via Social Media During the 2016 Louisiana Floods

Scott, Katherine, K., BS; Errett, Nicole, A., PhD, MSPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: July/August 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue 4 - p 370–379
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000708
Research Reports: Research Full Report

Context: Social media is becoming increasingly integrated into disaster response communication strategies of public health and emergency response agencies.

Objective: We sought to assess the content, accessibility, and dissemination of social media communications made by government agencies during a disaster response.

Design: A cross-sectional analysis of social media posts made by federal, state, and local government, public health and emergency management agencies before, during, and after the 2016 Louisiana floods was conducted to determine their content, accessibility, and dissemination by level of government and time relative to disaster onset.

Setting: Facebook and/or Twitter posts made by public agencies involved in the response to the 2016 Louisiana Flooding events (FEMA Disaster Declaration [DR-4277]) published between August 4 and September 16, 2016, publicly available online between February 21 and March 31, 2017, were included in the analysis.

Main Outcome Measure: Content: The text of each post was assessed to determine whether it contained information on provision of situational awareness; addressing misconception, actionable requests; mental, behavioral, and emotional support; and/or recovery and rebuilding resources. Accessibility: A Flesh-Kincaid grade level of each post was calculated, and information on post language, originality, hyperlinks, visuals, videos, or hash tag was recorded. Dissemination: The average number of reacts/likes, shares/retweets, and comments per post was calculated.

Results: Most posts contained information related to situational awareness and recovery resources. There was an increase in messages during the first week of the disaster at all levels. Few posts were made in languages other than English. Compared with state and federal posts, local Facebook posts averaged fewer reacts, comments, and shares throughout the analysis period.

Conclusions: Government agencies may maximize the use of social media platforms for disaster communications by establishing their social media network in advance of a disaster and by applying established guidelines on disaster social media use.

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington (Ms Scott and Dr Errett).

Correspondence: Nicole A. Errett, PhD, MSPH, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington School of Public Health, 1959 NE Pacific St, Box 357234, Seattle, WA, 98195 (

The authors acknowledge the practice-based partners that provided feedback on this manuscript, including the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health, and Bureau of Community Preparedness.

This work was supported by the University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

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