Using Social Media and Plain Language to Improve Public Education and Communications


Superstorm Sandy presented the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with one of the most serious tests in recent memory. The key was communicating short, actionable messages that people could access without draining mobile phone batteries. Twitter (with its 140 character limit) seemed to be the answer as millions were already using this social media channel to update their status and look for emergency information.

HHS used existing Twitter feeds to effectively communicate storm-related information to more than 1.6 million subscribers. These posts answered people’s questions and alerted them to hazards they might not have been aware of. Using these accounts, HHS was able to quickly distribute information to help keep Americans safe and healthy before, during, and after the storm.

EMS agencies that wish to utilize social media to communicate emergency preparedness information to the public before, during, and after any large scale incident are advised of a great resource to assist in effective messaging at