The influence of social media and other modes of communication before and after the Tuscaloosa Tornado

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University of Alabama Libraries

The April 27th 2011 EF-4 Tuscaloosa, AL tornado forever changed the city, passing within 1 kilometer of the University of Alabama. The majority of the campus community had experience under tornado warnings, but had not experienced a tornado of this intensity. This research focuses on assessing the influence of social media (Facebook and Twitter) and other types of communication before and after the tornado for the University of Alabama campus community. Over 2,300 surveys were completed online by the students, staff, and faculty. Participants were asked questions concerning their demographic background, shelter seeking impetus, and preferred primary source of communication. To address the influence of these types of hazard communication four objectives were formulated. The four objectives for this study included: 1) who used social media before and after the tornado, 2) how was social media used before and after, 3) did social media usage influence shelter-seeking behavior, and 4) did social media usage differ between the campus and city populations. With the uniqueness of this event, many individuals relied on Facebook and Twitter for weather updates and recovery information. Not only for the campus population, but the city population also saw an increase usage, especially with Facebook. The usage of these sites among the diverse population at UA and the city of Tuscaloosa could potentially shape how weather information is disseminated and how communities prepare and react during severe weather.

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