By Bill Lucia
Flooding is the No. 1 natural hazard in Oneida County, according to Joseph Hernon, the deputy director for the county’s Department of Emergency Services.
Located in central New York, east of Syracuse, Oneida is about 1,212 square miles and has roughly 232,000 residents. During the summer of 2013, floods inundated areas in and around the county. Muddy water poured onto the streets of townsdestroying dozens of homes, damaging hundreds of others and leaving thousands of residents without power.
Hernon wasn’t working for the Department of Emergency Services when the floods hit. But he explained that when this type of natural disaster occurs “situational awareness is critical” for emergency managers “and can really change our ability to save lives and property.”
With this in mind, officials in Oneida are beginning to seek new ways to take advantage of a potentially rich source of information, which tends to flow freely during widespread emergency situations: social media. The county is not alone. Across the U.S., jurisdictions and agencies are looking to refine how they monitor, and use, the often vast amounts of information publicly shared on the Internet during natural disasters, emergencies and large-scale planned events.
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