A study was released last week on how social media is used after a natural disaster.

The study, released by North Carolina State University, highlighted how people used Twitter following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan.

What researchers found is that social media has not changed how people communicated, but shows how quickly information can be disseminated, especially during the times of an emergency.

The goal of the research was to see if people were using social media anecdotally, substantially, and whether users were providing analysis and placing information in context.

More than 66 percent of adults use one or more social media platforms, and it is changing how people respond to emergencies.

An American Red Cross study commissioned in 2009 found that social media sites are the fourth most popular source to access emergency information.

Many IAFF locals are still learning how best to use social media for their members and fire departments.

A report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) last year entitled “Social Media and Disasters: Current Users, Future Options, and Policy Considerations” says organizations can take two approaches when it comes to how it communicates on social media.

An organization can use social media passively by delivering information and receiving user feedback via incoming messages, wall posts and polls. Or social media can be used as a more systematic emergency management tool to deliver emergency communications, issue warnings, receive victim requests for assistance and monitor activities and postings to establish situational awareness, among other tools.

If using social media as the latter, organizations should consider some policy issues that may arise and think carefully about how accurate information on social media is and about the possibility of individuals/groups using technology as a way to disrupt response efforts.

Social media because it is here to stay and fire departments can use it effectively to come up with solutions on how to communicate in the event of natural or man-made disaster.