Social Media, Rumors, and Hurricane Warning Systems in Puerto Rico

AbstractDisaster warning systems are a form of risk communication that allow national, state, and local actors to prepare for, respond to, and understand disaster risk. The increased use of social media platforms to exchange information around disasters challenges traditional, centralized forms of risk communication. While social media is already used in emergency management to some degree, issues of trust and reliability of information limit the widespread adoption of social media into emergency management practices. This paper offers a case study of the role that social media information plays in Puerto Rico’s hurricane early warning system and highlights the affordances and limitations of decentralized, heterarchical communication forms around disasters for federal, state, and local-level emergency management authorities. The case highlights differences in perception of social media information around disasters by emergency management authorities and by community members both before and after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

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