By Wednesday afternoon there were 2,316 members of the Taylor Bridge Fire Animal Recovery page on Facebook, many of them offering shelter or help in identifying lost and found animals. And that's only one example of the role social media is playing in disseminating information and coordinating citizen response to the fire.
There is also the @KCEmergency Twitter feed, run by Kittitas County Fire District 7 spokeswoman Richelle Risdon, which provides official up-to-the-minute news. There is the Taylor Bridge Fire Help page on Facebook.
And there are any number of private individuals Tweeting and Facebooking their own stories, creating a sharp cumulative picture of just what is happening in Cle Elum, Ellensburg and the rest of Kittitas County.
Social media's influence was demonstrated in dozens of ways over the past three days. On Wednesday, for instance, Facebook user April Richter posted a photo of a dog found on U.S. Highway 97, saying it was being held at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds. Within two hours, according to the Taylor Bridge Fire Animal Recovery page reported that the dog's owner had been identified. Also on Wednesday, Twitter user Sarah Heath of Seattle reported that she had asked Seattle energy drink company Golazo for donations for firefighters.
"Hmm. Asked Golazo energy drink if they'd be willing to donate some to #taylorbridgefire firefighters. Response: 'We need a month's notice.'" she tweeted at 2:27 p.m.
At 2:57 p.m. Golazo's account responded: "to be fair, the purpose of the request wasn't mentioned until after we responded, nor were we aware of the wildfires."
At 3:16 p.m. Heath tweeted a photo of her car loaded with Golazo energy drinks: "Thank you @vivagolazo for filling my car up! #TaylorBridgeFire relief on its way!"
That kind of social-media response to an emergency is not uncommon or surprising, said Philip Howard, a University of Washington professor and co-editor of the book "Society Online: The Internet in Context." The Arab Spring uprisings in late 2010 and early 2011 are only the most famous example.
"There are some great examples of average citizens using social media in creative ways during fires," Howard said.
It's less common for official sources, such as Risdon's Kittitas County Fire District 7 feed, because government agencies tend to be wary of social media, he said.
"It's pretty rare that a public agency like that has good social-media feeds," Howard said. "It's to their credit. ... This is not the time to be afraid to use social media."
Jeremy Bertrand, the web and social media manager for the state Department of Transportation, believes liability fears driven by social media's immediacy kept government agencies from using it in its early years.
But that is changing as more agencies recognize the efficiency of social media. Its reach extends beyond that of an agency's website, because it allows agencies to reach out rather than forcing viewers to visit its site.
"They're looking for real-time information wherever they are," Bertrand said.
Most Popular Stories
- SEO Traffic Lab Celebrate Wins at Digital Marketing Event 'Internet World 2013' in London
- Social Media Initiatives Should Follow Customers' Lead
- Apple CEO: Offshore Units Not a 'Tax Gimmick'
- U.S. Senate Accuses Apple of Large-scale Tax Avoidance
- UTEP Water Recycling Project Wins Venture Titles
- Marketo Makes a Mint in IPO: Stock Shoots Up More than 50 Percent
- Bieber Booed at Billboard Awards
- Crude Oil Up, Gasoline Down
- Austin Startup Compare Metrics Raises $3.5 Million for Expansion
- Why So Many Top 'Car Guys' Are Actually Women