Emergency Management in the Era of Social Media

Date01 March 2014
AuthorRashmi Krishnamurthy,David M. Hondula
Published date01 March 2014
David M. Hondula is a postdoctoral
scholar in the Center for Policy Informatics
at Arizona State University. Trained in
environmental sciences at the University of
Virginia, his research supports emergency
preparedness efforts by examining how
climate and atmospheric hazards affect
human well-being.
E-mail: david.hondula@asu.edu
Rashmi Krishnamurthy is a doctoral
candidate in the School of Public Affairs
at Arizona State University. Her research
interests are in the areas of economic
development in developing countries,
comparative public administration, and
collaborative decision-making.
E-mail: rashmi.krishnamurthy@asu.edu
Book Reviews
274 Public Administration Review • March | April 2014
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 2, pp. 274–277. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12184.
movement. Crowe begins his treatise by outlining the
tension between the traditional hierarchical form of
public organizations and changing expectations and
needs of the people. Citing various research studies
and statistics, Crowe highlights two main factors that
have simultaneously contributed to the widespread
adoption of social media in the public sector. First,
over the last few decades, there has been a growing
loss of trust in public agencies. Second, people have
adopted technologies such as tablets and smartphones
and are increasingly sharing and connecting with each
other through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter,
and YouTube.
On January 21, 2009, President Barack Obama, on
his f‌i rst full day in of‌f‌i ce, issued the memorandum
on open and transparent government. In the memo,
he asked his administration to establish “a system of
transparency, public participation, and collaboration
(White House 2009). In subsequent years, in accord-
ance with this memorandum, the federal government
has adopted various measures to incorporate the use
of social media to disseminate information, solicit
ideas, engage citizens in agencies’ functioning, and
co-create solutions to complex challenges (Noveck
2011, 2012).
Focusing on emergency management, Crowe next
highlights striking examples of the manner in which
social media is changing the way people experience,
react to, and recover from a range of disaster situa-
tions. Crowe identif‌i es the London subway bomb-
ings in 2005 as an early example of social media’s
signif‌i cant impact. In that case, citizen photos and
blog reports helped public agencies determine that
utility malfunctions were not the cause of explosions.
As social media became more widespread in the late
2000s, it became the primary news source for many
citizens; this was especially true for the Mumbai
f‌i nancial district terrorist attack in 2008, when news
of the bombings appeared on social media outlets
before formal news wires. Referencing the case of the
August 2011 Virginia earthquake, Crowe notes that
Adam S. Crowe, Leadership in the Open: A New Para-
digm in Emergency Management (Boca Raton, FL:
CRC Press, 2013). 313 pp. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN:
Over the last few decades, the adoption of infor-
mation and communications technologies
(ICTs) in the public sector, including personal
computers, e-services, and social media, has gener-
ally been perceived as “a game changer” (Mergel and
Bretschneider 2013, 390). Public agencies have adopted
these technologies to varying degrees to connect with
and meet the growing demands of their constituencies.
e current adoption of social media ref‌l ects a new form
of ICT, widely implemented as a measure to provide
open, transparent, collaborative, and participatory
government (Mergel 2013; Mergel and Bretschneider
2013; Picazo-Vela, Gutiérrez-Martínez, and Luna-Reyes
2012). For instance, as of 2012, U.S. federal agencies
and departments had created “2,956 Facebook pages,
1,016 Twitter accounts, 695 YouTube channels, and 498
Flickr pages” (Mergel 2013).
e area of emergency management is not immune to
these changes. Over the years, the way in which infor-
mation is collected and shared in emergency situations
has rapidly evolved with the widespread adoption of
social media technologies. As a result, the capacity of
public agencies and individuals to ef‌f ectively coordi-
nate response ef‌f orts, identify communities in need
of help, and deliver services has evolved. In the text
Leadership in the Open: A New Paradigm in Emergency
Management, Adam S. Crowe explores the growth of
social media technologies as key resources available
to government agencies, private enterprises, and the
general citizenry when disasters occur. Organizing
the text around a series of well-researched case studies
ref‌l ecting nine dimensions of social media, Crowe
encourages capacity building for integrating social
media into preparedness and response ef‌f orts.
Crowe introduces readers to the rise of social
media contextualized under the Open Government
Emergency Management in the Era of Social Media
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
David M. Hondula
Rashmi Krishnamurthy
Arizona State University

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