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The world continues to maintain a trend of annual growth in the number of emergencies caused by natural hazards, natural disasters, accidents, and technological disasters. This often entails human casualties, damage to human health or the environment, significant material losses, and violation of social living conditions. One of the essential tasks of implementing measures to protect the population in the event of a threat or natural disaster, major industrial accident, and catastrophe are to inform the people promptly of a possible or existing situation, rules of conduct, and methods of protection.
Informing the population is bringing to the public information about predicted and emerging emergencies of a natural and human-made nature. It should be noted that informing the public, as opposed to alerting the population, does not require immediate measures to protect the community and is the responsibility of all federal government bodies, executive bodies of local governments, and organizations (Karami, Shah, Vaezi, & Bansal, 2019).
However, the average modern citizens spend most of their attention on the internet, including social media. Therefore, it is will be highly effective to prevent and warn the public about natural disasters through social media platforms. The research needs to be conducted if the use of social media as a means of informing the public about a natural emergency is quick and reliable. Thus, the main research question is what makes the warning process effective and what is the role of social media in the given issue.
Informing the Public
Today, there are various forms of informing the public. Verbal informing is carried out mainly in the way of public statements by the heads of information structures of territorial bodies, representatives of supervisory organizations, and other services. Also included are lectures on life safety issues for various population groups using such forms as lectures, seminars, conferences, thematic evenings (Ukkusuri, Zhan, Sadri, & Ye, 2014). The second way is to inform by publishing in periodicals and other editions speeches by management, reputable experts in the field of life safety (Tong, 2017). In addition, scientists and representatives of public organizations, as well as the publication of manuals, brochures, leaflets on the rules of conduct in dangerous and emergencies, can also be part of this form of information.
The third way is to inform via the media, including electronic and print. This approach is carried out using all possible information resources (Hagen, Keller, Neely, DePaula, & Robert-Cooperman, 2018). The main forms of information through the media include thematic sections in the print media, on the websites of news agencies, and in the print media. The fourth way is mediated advertising, which finds expression in organizing stationary and traveling exhibitions, equipping rooms, classes, museums, corners, and stands (Karami et al., 2019). However, there is no information on the effectiveness of social media in preventing and warning citizens regarding natural disasters.
The media in emergency situations include radio, television, social media, and cellular communications, that is, most of the social interaction that performs oral, written, and audiovisual functions. However, the directly affected population during the emergency response period may not have access to television or social media, newspapers are not very responsive, and in this connection, it is possible to use hotline telephones, as well as direct information and psychological work with the population (Hagen et al., 2018).
In regards to informing people about emergencies and fires, then in this context, it is imperative to take into account the peculiarities of the influence of such information or its absence on the population. Thus, the chaotic dissemination of information about an emergency can lead to serious negative processes in society, such as rumors, panic.
Effectiveness of Social Media
Psychologists note that the impact of news programs is felt by people with different levels of education, age, and social status. Particularly in this series, viewers stand out since visual stimuli, in conjunction with all the others, give the most considerable emotional stress to the human psyche and cause the highest emotional response (Schroeder & Pennington-Gray, 2015). So, people viewing news releases with special reports on emergencies and disasters have symptoms similar to those of affected people who find themselves at the epicenter of such events. Information about emergencies, in this case, is tried on the people themselves and their loved ones.
Experts of the psychological service distinguish viewers in the group of secondary victims in an emergency. At the same time, the lack of information about the circumstances of what is happening provides fertile ground for fantasies and conjectures. According to studies, with a shortage of available information, a negative emotion appears, reaching a maximum in the event of a complete lack of information (Tong, 2017). Positive emotion occurs when the information available exceeds the information necessary to satisfy a given need. Thus, in a number of cases, knowledge, personal awareness removes emotions, change the emotional state and mental state of a person, and open up access to a person’s internal resources.
It is important to note that the media transmit not only objective but also subjective information since the content of the information is the result of a thinking process. Subjective information will, to a greater extent, reflect not so much the subject of information as the specifics of its perception (Schroeder & Pennington-Gray, 2015). Communication through the media, as some researchers note, suggests the absence of feedback between the communicator and the mass audience.
This is due to the one-sidedness of the transmission of information and the loss of part of its content in the process, which is facilitated by various factors, in particular, the psychological characteristics of perception, the unpreparedness of the object to receive information, technical interference (Hagen et al., 2018). However, social media allows people to get feedback from a source of information or already informed citizens.
Information from various sources mustn’t contradict each other because this undermines public confidence in the data. If new facts contradict previous statements, it is necessary to acknowledge this fact but to report what will be specifically done about this. It should be noted that improving the quality of timely informing the population through the media and social networks requires an increase in the volume and frequency of the submission of information, including photos and video materials using the latest information and communication technologies (Karami et al., 2019). For this purpose, modern information resources are used, such as an online section on the official portal, an informational social media, or a television channel.
In addition, there should be broadcast video and photography from the emergency zone via social media and satellite communications. The given images and videos can be actively reposted through various social media platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook (Schroeder & Pennington-Gray, 2015). The process should also include the dissemination of alerts on the developed templates using SMS and MMS.
Transmission of a map of fires to regions using GPS navigators for car drivers when they enter a village, other available systems, and servers (Ukkusuri et al., 2014). The importance of this activity is given to the social media portals of the sites of territorial bodies, which should operate in the mode of an information agency and be the main source of timely and reliable information for journalists and representatives of social media.
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To date, there are various forms of work of specialists of the psychological service in the field of informing the population in an emergency. One of these forms is informational and psychological support. It is aimed at creating an information system and preventing the development of rumors, informing the victims, as well as their loved ones, about the characteristics of the mental state and the possible dynamics of its change (Tong, 2017). The result of the specialist’s work is the correction of the current mental state.
The main tool is reliable, timely, sufficient, accessible, unambiguous information about the current situation and the forecast of its development, as well as professional methods and techniques. Another, no less important form of psychologist’s work is remote informational and psychological support, which consists of working with victims and other people involved in the situation, carried out by telephone hotline, and aimed at psychological support (Tong, 2017). It prevents the occurrence of negative social phenomena, preventing the development of new rumors, the result of which is the correction of the current social state.
In conclusion, when informing the population in emergency situations, for all sources of information, appropriate recommendations should be prepared based on knowledge of the psychological laws of perception and processing of information by people under stress. In addition, there is a need for extensive research regarding the effectiveness of using social media as a tool for warning citizens about natural disasters. It is necessary to continue to study and generalize the experience of psychological informational impact on the population during various emergencies.
Hagen, L., Keller, T., Neely, S., DePaula, N., & Robert-Cooperman, C. (2018). Crisis communications in the age of social media: A network analysis of Zika-related tweets. Social Science Computer Review, 36(5), 523-541.
Karami, A., Shah, V., Vaezi, R., & Bansal, A. (2019). Twitter speaks: A case of national disaster situational awareness. Journal of Information Science.
Schroeder, A., & Pennington-Gray, L. (2015). The role of social media in international tourist’s decision making. Journal of Travel Research, 54(5), 584-595.
Tong, J. (2017). Technology and journalism: ‘Dissolving’ social media content into disaster reporting on three Chinese disasters. International Communication Gazette, 79(4), 400-418.
Ukkusuri, S. V., Zhan, X., Sadri, A. M., & Ye, Q. (2014). Use of social media data to explore crisis informatics: Study of 2013 Oklahoma tornado. Transportation Research Record, 2459(1), 110-118.