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Social media make emergencies less so

“Captured the search is done. The terror is over and justice has won.” 

Those are the words tweeted by the Boston Police Department when they caught the second bombing suspect in Watertown, Mass., April 19. They didn't hold a news conference; they didn't send out a press release. They decided to Tweet the news to millions of people. The message was instantaneously re-tweeted around the world.

This is our new normal.

Social media played a key role for everyone in this tragic event. The public circulated the photos of the bombing suspects, some social media outlets got it wrong, and some were accused wrongly, but the FBI and Boston Police got it right. They caught their suspects, partly with help from social media.

That week I was interviewed by WAKM radio, and Tom Lawrence asked, “How is the city prepared if something like that were to happen here?” I was able to say that we are ready, in more ways than one. Our public safety departments meet regularly and practice for large-scale emergencies at least once a year. We work with all our regional partners, including the county, the schools, and neighboring cities. We have a plan in place to respond and communicate in any type of emergency.

There are many ways residents can keep up to date on city/safety news, and social media is one very popular way. Since our city began engaging citizens with social media in 2009, it has become a virtual gathering space for information during storms or other widespread events.

During the May 2010 floods, our Facebook and Twitter followers tripled. We were able to reach many thankful residents with information about road closures, flooded areas, and flood relief. Since then, many followers continue to assist us, acting as our eyes and ears to report downed trees and power lines, etc. They often submit photos and videos as well. This helps us tremendously to get our crews to the scene quickly. 

The Franklin Police Department has a Twitter account with 4,768 followers. Our traffic operations center has 1,684 Twitter followers, and Franklin Fire another 1,856 followers. The city has more than 7,200 friends on Facebook and another 4,113 on Twitter.

Together we reach close to 20,000 citizens who want to be connected to the city!

Residents can also sign up for emergency information in their neighborhoods by cell phone or by email at

Hopefully we'll never have a tragedy like Boston, but if we do, we feel we are doing our best to be ready and so are many of our citizens who engage with us on social media.

Milissa Reierson is the Communications Manager for the City of Franklin. 

Posted on: 5/16/2013


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