I watched with sick fascination as Hurricane Gustav blew in last weekend, threatening to once again flood New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas and causing the Republican National Convention to severely curtail its opening activities on Monday. Thankfully, it appears that this time a combination of good contingency planning and a weakening of the storm resulted in minimal damage and loss of life, unlike the horror show that Hurricane Katrina trailed in her wake three years ago.
As the cleanup begins and the residents start trickling back to their homes, I—and everyone else, I’m sure—have our eyes on the next crop of hurricanes spinning their way through the Atlantic Ocean. But I’m not just watching the TV news, or updates on regular online news outlets like Weather.com, just as I didn’t get all my Gustav info from traditional resources.
As it did during Katrina, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau did—and continues to do—a terrific job of posting regular updates on its website. But as soon as it became obvious that a nasty storm was heading our way, I also became glued to the networks that began humming with Gustav news and updates, like this Hurricane Information Site, housed on the Ning platform. The microblogging tool Twitter also was atwitter with constant updates (here’s the main feed). Talk about up-to-the-second updates! Maddie Grant, who recently launched the social media strategy consulting firm SocialFish LLC, listed a bunch of these social media resources on her Diary of a Reluctant Blogger blog. Consultant Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE, notes some of the blogs that were following Gustav, too, in this post. I’m sure that similar resources will pop up should more hurricanes develop into monsters before the season ends in November.
Three years ago, it was big news that bloggers on the scene in Katrina-devastated areas were reporting what they saw; now it’s commonplace, and seemingly everyone with a functioning cellphone can add their two cents via Twitter and other social networking tools.
What does all this mean for your next meeting? If your membership is tech savvy at all, I would consider setting up a Twitter feed for the event and letting members know about it. That way, they not only can fill each other in on where the hot sessions, speakers, and parties are, but they also can relay information in case of an emergency. Of course, you would also continue to run all the communication channels you already have outlined in your contingency plan. (You do include communications in your risk management plans, right?) But this may be one more way to get the word out to those on site—and to let those at home know their loved ones are safe, in real time.