When President Barack Obama urged Americans under siege from Hurricane Sandy to stay inside and keep watch on ready.gov for the latest, he left out something pretty important — where to turn if the electricity goes out.
Despite the heightened expectation of widespread power and cable television failures, everyone from the president to local newscasters seem to expect the public to rely entirely on the Internet and their TVs for vital news and instructions.
None of the major cable or local news channels put emergency phone numbers or key radio station frequencies on their screens. The only phone-related instructions on the homepage of ready.gov is how to get monthly disaster-prep text messages. The Federal Emergency Management Agency told the public via Twitter to use texts and social media outlets to stay informed.
TV and radio are still the primary methods of getting information about Hurricane Sandy to the public, but social media are increasingly important to those efforts, FEMA chief Craig Fugate said Monday.
Telephone landlines and battery-powered radios have always been important sources of information during natural and man-made disasters.
The biggest failure here is that the most vulnerable storm victims, the elderly, are all asking themselves, "What’s a social media?"