Social Media and Crisis Response

Social Media and Crisis Response

How does social media help during times of crisis? As I sit down to write this post in the library, our school – MacEwan University – is currently making headlines. An online threat to the university was posted early this morning on an online university app called Chillabit (formerly Chitter).

With social media and online communication becoming a staple in our lives, we are now able to go onto our phones and receive instant updates relating to the ongoing situation.

Before any official statements were released by MacEwan, I received a text from a friend informing me that someone made a threat on Chitter and police are all around the school. It didn’t take long for me to go on Twitter and find a screenshot of the threat.


Within an hour, MacEwan sent out the email to all students and staff; mere minutes later, local news stations sent out their news crews to come and get information about the ongoing situation.


This whole ordeal draws attention to the advantages and disadvantage that can arise with using social media during a crisis – whether the crisis is warranted or not. In this year alone, there have been two instances of false alarms at major US airports.

In August mayhem erupted at LAX, causing the biggest disturbance to the airport in over 3 years. It all started with a threatening phone call to the airport. Shortly after the call was made, airport authorities responded to a man wearing a cape and possessing a sword. The suspicious person was dressed as Zorro to greet a friend arriving on a flight.



Enter social media: while Zorro was being questioned and subsequently released, Twitter and other social media platforms erupted with tweets about possible shots fired at the airport. Panic ensued and soon passengers were fleeing the airport creating a chaotic scene.

Social media can provide a great deal of relief during a crisis. Twitter has the emergency alert system, where you can sign up and will receive notifications when a crisis is occurring; Facebook has the safety check, allowing you to check in during a crisis or disaster to let your loved ones know you’re safe.

Despite the many advantages of social media during times of crisis, there can be situations where misinformation can spread and escalate a situation that, perhaps, is not as threatening as it appears online. I guess at the end of the day it is up to the user of social media to seek out credible information and decide how to respond.


Be known [Image file]. Retrieved from

Chillabit [Image file]. Retrieved from×530.jpeg

Feature image [Image file]. Retrieved from

Gorman, S. (2016, August 29). Social media adds to panic over ‘gunfire’ at L.A. airport: police. Reuters. Retrieved from

Graney, J. (2016, October 26). Man arrested in Sherwood Park in connection with threat against MacEwan University. The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved from

This app will change your life [Image file]. Retrieved from



5 thoughts on “Social Media and Crisis Response

  1. Enjoyed this post! I agree that the emergency features set up by social media sites, and just the ease of dissemination of emergency news by social media can be extremely valuable in a lot of cases. At the same time though, the use of social media in this way can be fear mongering, and an outlet for false information. I think of the current ‘creepy clown’ pandemic…personally, it’s not constructive for me to go on social media and see images (that are usually just randomly selected from the Internet) of murderous clowns, paired with a story telling me that they’re basically running amok right now in my community… when really the whole thing is so much less than it seems. Definitely have to be cautious when using social media for emergency information.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The fact that an airport had a massive disturbance because some guy was dressed up as Zorro causes me to have some very conflicting emotions. Because, one, that is hilarious. Of course he’s not a terrorist; he’s just a dude that recently time traveled from a time in the past when Zorro was still culturally relevant and people know who he was dressed up as. But also I’m kind of glad, because airport security seem to be doing their job; they arrest people that look suspicious, because terrible things can happen at airports. Yet, I’m also pretty worried for the future. What kind of future will we have if we can’t dress up as Zorro to surprise a friend at the airport because it leads to total chaos and panic?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very interesting point. I suppose security was doing the right thing; this poor time traveller must have inputed the wrong year on his time machine. I can honestly say that I do not want to live in a world where I cannot dress up as my favourite masked outlaw to go and greet my friends at the airport — yes, I did dress up as Zorro for Halloween as a child.

      It is alarming that this kind of mass hysteria occurred twice this year at two airports. The “LAX Zorro panic” and the chaos that ensued at JFK airport in NYC where people mistook cheers for Usain Bolt’s Olympic victory in Rio for gunshots. It just goes to show how vulnerable our society is to “panic via false viral social media trending.”


  3. I remember during one of the recent terror attacks in Europe that they had a Twitter hashtag or something similar set up in order to let loved ones know that they were okay. Social media is a powerful tool for situations like this. Another example that comes to mind is how people often share posts regarding missing persons on Facebook and Twitter, although I’m not sure if this ever led to them being found. Exposure in those kinds of situations can never hurt. Although I agree with your point, social media can be like a double edged sword and people can spread false panic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with most of the comments above. with all these new trends coming out, we never know what we can expect. the clown citing was one I feared because, you never know if the clowns are actual crazy people or enemies hiding behind the façade of the clown mask to actually hurt others. and one of the scary things involving these things is that people actually stand to video tape it just so they can get a large number of views and followers on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

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