Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, mindful of the digitally savvy public he serves, was among the region's most frequent users of social media to communicate storm information.
This is the first-time Howard County officials mobilized social media for weather alerts; the strategy wasn’t in effect during the , he said.
It’s a move that came after Howard County was named this year as the ninth “most digital county” in the nation by the Center for Digital Government, a research institute near Sacramento, CA.
“Howard County, one of the most wired communities in the country, is a very educated, engaged population--on their computers and mobile devices,” said Ulman. “We are working very hard on their behalf and continuing to give out information and keep people calm and informed.”
On Saturday, Aug. 27, the day tropical storm warnings started, and Sunday, Aug. 28, the day the storm ended and clean up began, Ulman pumped out 63 tweets on his account @kenulman—a near constant stream of information about driving conditions, storm damage and government services and closing.
Other counties were mixed in how they used social media during Hurricane Irene.
Between Aug. 27 and 28, Baltimore County Emergency Management sent out 61 tweets on @Bacoemergency, and a whopping 87 tweets were sent out on Prince George’s County Executive, Rushern L. Baker III's Twitter feed at @CountyExecBaker.
Carroll County’s office of public information did not use its Twitter feed, @CarrollCoMd, during the hurricane, although it had, on past occasions, warned followers of tornado watches and other storm warnings via social media.
Montgomery County’s Office of Public Information published 23 hurricane-related tweets between Aug. 27 and 28 at @MontgomeryCoMd
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett does not appear to have a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page with his name listed as a public figure only had a Wikipedia entry describing who he is.
Ulman acknowledged that he had “help” to churn out that volume of tweets, but said he is “constantly involved in all the things we are posting.”
“We learned the importance of social media and continuously pumping out information,” Ulman said. “In these situations, with this ever interconnected society we have, people are used to getting information in real time.”