As Hurricane Sandy churns toward New Jersey, residents and officials alike are using social media to comment and get updates on the storm. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate tweeted to "keep your mobile device charged" Sunday. Many other government agencies and officials are similarly using social media to recommend apps or tell their audience to keep phone lines free and communicate instead by posting frequently.
A new Spanish account, FEMAespanol, was created Sunday evening to send out alerts and updates.
Hashtags to follow the storm are #Sandy and #Frankenstorm on Twitter, and hurricane tracking apps are available for smartphones.
Some of the apps for iOS include Hurricane HD and Hurricane Tracker. Both have detailed and loop animation maps for tracking the hurricane. The Hurricane by American Red Cross app allows users to simultaneously update their Twitter, Facebook, email and text contacts through an "I'm Safe" message blast.
Regional government agencies are using social media to post updates that they also send to news organizations. Atlantic County has a website, readyatlantic.org, which also has a Twitter handle and Facebook page to post updates and messages.
Many of the county's police and fire departments, as well as municipal governments, have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also, users can log onto local or regional information websites to sign up for newsletters and reverse 911.
Agencies such as the National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and FEMA have accounts as well, and many of their directors and administrators provide storm-preparation tips.
Other useful apps include those that provide flashlights, survival tips and checklists for emergency preparedness. Keep in mind that some may use more of your device's battery life than others. In the event the hurricane knocks down a cell tower, WiFi-enabled devices may still work if the cable is not out.
Some Tweeters have created accounts related to hurricanes or Sandy specifically. Tweets making light of the situation include asking the younger audience to reply if they wanted their school blown down. Some are citing the Mayan calendar's end-of-the-world prediction for this year, especially after the earthquake that affected the western coast of the U.S. and Canada late Saturday.
Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said as more customers use mobile devices, more effective ways of communicating and sharing updates are being embraced.
Cable users in the area can visit Comcast's website to check on alerts for outages in their area.
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