Isaac Lessons Learned

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Hurricane Isaac makes landfall. © by Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Well New Orleans is finally surfacing after Hurricane Isaac made an appearance in our city. As a communicator it was hard to be without power. No power may mean no AC and everything in your fridge is spoiling but to a communicator no power means no TV and no internet. I was so desperate for information and to connect with the outside world that I went as low as to “watch” the radio.

Isaac was different because we had learned so many things post Katrina. Everyone learned to text message because in the days following Katrina that was the only way to communicate. The problem this time was that too many people now know how to text message it was hard to get a text out!

For me, Twitter was my only connection with the outside world. I couldn’t access Facebook or my news apps on my phone. Twitter, while slow, was always there. Perhaps everyone will know how to tweet when the next storm hits. Make note of that in your crisis plan.

Constantly checking Twitter on my phone, with no power, resulted in running to the car in the middle of the storm to charge the phone. This could mean one of two things….I now know I have a social media problem or next time park the car closer to the house!

There are a few takeaways from Isaac that I wanted to share with you that are relevant to almost any disaster.

• With so many companies scheduling social media. Make sure to un-schedule all irrelevant posts before, during and immediately after a disaster. Even our beloved quarterback, Drew Brees, was victim to a scheduled post sneaking out during Isaac.

• Deploy your messages through every channel. Our local power company, Entergy, was not only on the radio and TV giving power updates but you could report outages and find out if they were working in your neighborhood through Twitter and Facebook. They updated with links, pictures and stories constantly.

• Remind your team, no matter how large, that there is one spokesperson. As people were hot in their houses without power, tensions were high. Everyone in the city was giving advice on how the power company should do their job. Spokespeople began to emerge where they shouldn’t have, only adding fuel to the fire. Keep your employees informed and make sure they know where to direct a media request even in times of a disaster. Don’t count on them remembering from the last staff meeting when you told them.

• Go where your customers are. As the disaster approaches or happens, tell your customers where they can get the most up-to-date information. Facebook and Twitter were more up-to-date than websites and media. Citizens started using designated hash tags such as #NOLAgas to find open gas stations, #NOLAfood to indicate where people could find open restaurants or grocery stores and #NOLAopen for businesses that had reopened.

• Remember to have thick skin. During times of disaster there is no way that you can make everyone happy. Do your best to keep them informed but know at the end of the day someone will always complain even if you have done everything to the best of your ability.

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