Best Practices in Disaster Public Communications: Evacuation Alerting and Social Media

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This research project examines the current state of the practice for disaster public communication, the distrust of government, the training available to public information officers, and the literature available to guide the design of effective public outreach messaging, especially for rapid on-set events. Growing distrust in government had led to lack of public confidence in public agency messaging during emergencies, yet public agency public information officers are using multiple pathways, including both traditional and social media resources, to try to reach impacted communities effectively.

The introduction explains the development of wildfire events in the West and their context. A literature review displays the sociological and political research that guides the development of public outreach, warning and evacuation. The findings display the SCU Complex Fire and CZU Complex Fire of 2020 as case studies of outreach efforts during rapid onset wildfire events and explains techniques of data scraping that could enhance public messaging. The analysis categorizes a variety of best practices in disaster communications. The project concludes with a white paper outlining a pathway toward creating a cell phone app that would provide event, time and location specific information about a disaster event, using official sources and social media.



Frannie Edwards is the deputy director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s Allied Telesis National Transportation Security Center, the director of the Master of Public Administration program and a professor in the Political Science Department at San Jose State University. She is the Principal Investigator for this research. She is the co-author or editor of four books, 17 publications for MTI, and numerous articles and book chapters. She is a certified emergency manager.


Kaikai Liu is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Engineering at San Jose State University. He is the co-PI for this research. His research interests include Mobile and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Smart and Intelligent Systems, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Software-Defined Computing and Networking. He has published over 20 peer-reviewed papers in journals and conference proceedings, one book, and holds 4 patents (licensed by three companies).


Amanda Lee Hughes is an associate professor in the IT & Cybersecurity Program at Brigham Young University (BYU). As a recognized research leader in the area of Crisis Informatics, her current work investigates the use of social media during crises and mass emergencies with particular attention to how social media affect emergency response organizations. She leads the Crisis Informatics Lab at BYU. Her research interests span human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, social computing, software engineering, and disaster studies.


Jerry Zeyu Gao is a professor at the Department of Computer Engineering at San Jose State University. He has over 24 years of academic research and teaching experience and over 10 years of industry working and management experience on software engineering and IT development applications. He has published over 280 articles in IEEE/ACM journals, magazines, and international conferences and workshops. He has co-authored three published technical books and edited numerous books in software engineering, software testing, and mobile computing. His current research includes smart cities, green energy cloud computing, wildfires, smart agricultures, and intelligent system test automation.


Dan Goodrich is the senior transportation security scientist for the Mineta Transportation Institute. He has an MPA from San Jose State University, and is a certified emergency manager, a master exercise practitioner, and a certified security specialist. He has worked in county government and the private sector, and has sixteen years’ military service, including US Marine Corps Security Forces. He is the co-author of Introduction to Transportation Security, and author or co-author of 13 publications for MTI, and numerous journal articles and book chapters.


Alan Barner has an MPA from San Jose State University. He works for Facebook in information security. He is the author of A Process Evaluation of Intelligence Gathering Using Social Media for Emergency Management Organizations in California.


Robert Herrera has an MPA from San Jose State University. He is a Battalion Chief in a major metropolitan fire department. He is a 24-year veteran of the California fire service who has been deployed as part of an Incident Management Team that responds to wildfires in California. He is the author of Project Clean PPE: Reducing Firefighter Exposure to Hazardous Products of Combustion.

December 2022
Emergency management
Disasters and emergency operations
Emergency communication systems



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