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NHC Taking To Facebook During 2011 Hurricane Season

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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – While some continue to fight the social media revolution, the National Hurricane Center is officially on board in hopes of better communicating advisories to more people.

The NHC opened a Facebook page in January, but as hurricane season is just days away, the agency hopes Americans will make social media part of their disaster preparedness plans.

Starting June 1, the official start of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season, daily updates about conditions in the tropics will be posted on the Facebook page.

It also comes at a time when the U.S. seems to be living on borrowed time for a major hurricane to make landfall in the states. FEMA has also joined in saying social media can reduce the volume of calls I a disaster-stricken area and keep vital communication lines open.

“Rather than trying to convince the public to adjust to the way we at FEMA communicate, we must adapt to the way the public communicates by leveraging the tools that people use on a daily basis,” Fugate said.

And 2011 has unfortunately been a banner year for the public to use social media following a disaster. After storms tore through Alabama and later Missouri and Oklahoma, both federal agencies and the media in the impacted region used social media to help the public.

Residents took to Facebook and Twitter to find loved ones and belongings and the media used social networking to tell people where gas, cell phone charging stations, and other vital goods could be located following the disaster.

Hurricane center officials say that by engaging the public informally through Facebook, they hope to combat complacency in coastal residents skeptical of storm warnings and evacuation advisories after five years without a major hurricane making a U.S. landfall.

The bottom line of most postings is “be prepared,” urging readers not to join the millions who don’t stock up on nonperishable food or water until a storm is imminent, stressing the system and risking the possibility of having to recover from a hurricane with few or no resources.

So while some fight the impact of social media and struggle with how to use it; the NHC, NOAA, and FEMA are all trying to use the resources at their disposal to keep the public informed before, during, and after a hurricane.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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