As new fires roar to life across Colorado, social media networks light up as evacuees, officials and loved ones create and search Twitter hashtags and Facebook pages to share real-time information.
And those users — officials included — are learning the new rules of live crisis communication in 140 characters or less.
Marilyn Fried calls herself a “crisis tweeter,” having connected disaster relief efforts with victims in Haiti and Pakistan through Humanityroad.org. When the High Park fire began to smoke in the hills west of her Fort Collins home, Fried got online. “Twitter is the most nimble tool in a disaster.”
The #highparkfire Twitter search (known as a “hashtag”) peaked on June 9 (the day it started) at more than 10,000 tweets, with several thousand daily tweets since, said Elaine Filadelfo of Twitter communications.
On Sunday, the #waldocanyonfire hashtag already had nearly 20,000 tweets, just a day after the fire erupted west of Colorado Springs.
“Twitter is a lifeline during global — and local — emergencies,” Filadelfo said. “Twitter provides a way to connect with loved ones and friends, share critical information, and organize safety and relief efforts.”
The fires also are driving newspaper readers and television viewers to the web. Denverpost.com hit a record number of page views Monday and Tuesday, in part due to fire coverage.
“We’ve added 7,000 Facebook fans in two days,” said Nick Matesi, general manager of KKTV in Colorado Springs, where the Waldo Canyon fire is still threatening homes.