March 19, 2020 — With Spring officially beginning today, Facebook is providing Indiana governments and residents additional tools and resources to prepare and manage what is expected to be an active tornado season. Indiana had 39 tornadoes in 2019, so Facebook is providing new capabilities to support communities throughout the state when the next storm comes through.
While Indiana communities are familiar with damaging storms and tornadoes, state residents know that seconds matter when these storms materialize. Facebook can be another tool in the toolkit of law enforcement and emergency services to get information into people’s hands when they need it most while empowering communities to recover with help from around the state, country, and even, world.
“Facebook knows the devastation that tornadoes can cause in local Indiana communities so we are focused on providing tools to help protect lives and rebuild these communities,” said Will Castleberry, Vice President, State Policy for Facebook. “By providing new tools and resources to local governments and families, we hope Facebook can support Hoosiers when they need it most.”
Facebook provides tools that can be used to warn of pending danger and bring communities together should lives and property be damaged by a terrible storm. These tools include:
- Local alerts are push notifications to people following a local or state government, local or state public health agency or law enforcement Facebook page. Local alerts help local governments communicate urgent information when it directly affects people in their community or requires them to take action, such as road closures, blackouts or natural disasters, like a tornado.
- Mark Yourself Safe that enables people to let loved ones and friends know that they are safe which allows first responders to focus on those that need urgent help.
- Disaster Maps share real-time information with response teams, helping them determine things like whether communities have access to power and cellular networks, if they have evacuated, and what services and supplies they need most.
- Facebook Groups help people build safe, supportive communities and strengthen existing ones. People create Groups in the wake of disasters to combine information to help others in the community and identify needs of those impacted by the storm.
- Fundraising has become a crucial way for people to reach out to others as they rebuild their lives and homes, and support local organizations. In times of crisis and year-round, people use Facebook fundraising tools to support nonprofits or personal causes to help those in need
In Indiana, communities have already used some of these tools. Terre Haute Police Department has previously used the local alerts feature and other government agencies can sign up here. Indiana Facebook Groups, like KNOX COUNTY, IN – Hazardous Weather Updates, have been organized across the state to help notify communities of tornado threats and share tips for preparing and staying safe. “We have about almost 2,500 members, and it’s used both as an educational platform and a place to go local information sharing,” said Chance Westfall who serves as Assistant Director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency as well as the Group Administrator.
2019 was an active year for tornadoes in Indiana and the National Weather Service is predicting an active storm season over the next few months. While nobody can predict when and how bad these storms will be, the recent tornadoes in Nashville, Tennessee reinforce how damaging these storms can be.