Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section

Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak, D.Sc.

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel, Ph.D.

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR increased in 2015: 0.466
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.760

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.272
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.640
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.493

See all formats and pricing
In This Section

Closing the Citizen-Government Communication Gap: Content, Audience, and Network Analysis of Government Tweets

Clayton Wukich
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Political Science, Sam Houston State University, 1901 Avenue I, Rm 496D, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA
  • Email:
/ Ines Mergel
  • Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 215 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA
Published Online: 2015-07-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0074


A key task in emergency management is the timely dissemination of information to decision makers across different scales of operations, particularly to individual citizens. Incidents over the past decade highlight communication gaps between government and constituents that have led to suboptimal outcomes. Social media can provide valuable tools to reduce those gaps. This article contributes to the existing literature on social media use by empirically demonstrating how and to what extent state-level emergency management agencies employ social media to increase public participation and promote behavioral changes intended to reduce household and community risk. Research to this point has empirically examined only response and recovery phases related to this process. This article addresses each phase of emergency management through the analysis of Twitter messages posted over a 3-month period. Our research demonstrates that while most messages conformed to traditional one-to-many government communication tactics, a number of agencies employed interactive approaches including one-to-one and many-to-many strategies.

Keywords: emergency management communication; social convergence; social network analysis; twitter


  • Ambinder, E., D. M. Jennings, I. Blachman-Biatch, K. Edgemon, P. Hull and A. Taylor (2013) The Resilient Social Network: @OccupySandy #SuperstormSandy. Falls Church, VA: Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute.

  • Atkinson, G. M. and D. J. Wald (2007) “‘Did You Feel It?’ Intensity Data: A Surprisingly Good Measure of Earthquake Ground Motion,” Seismological Research Letters, 78(3):362–368. [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Bennett, D. M. (2014) “How do Emergency Managers Use Social Media Platforms?” Journal of Emergency Management, 12(3):251–256.

  • Borgatti, Stephen P., Martin G. Everett and Linton C. Freeman (2002) Ucinet 6 for Windows: Software for Social Network Analysis. Harvard: Analytic Technologies.

  • Bourque, L. B., R. Regan, M. M. Kelley, M. M. Wood, M. Kano and D. S. Mileti (2013) “An Examination of the Effect of Perceived Risk on Preparedness Behavior,” Environment and Behavior, 45(5):615–649.

  • Bruns, Axel (2014) “Crisis Communication, Social Media, and the Environment.” In: (S. Cunningham and S. Turnbull, eds.) The Media and Communications in Australia. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

  • Bruns, A., J. Burgess, K. Crawford and F. Shaw (2012) #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods. Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia: ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI).

  • Comfort, Louise K. (1999) Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response. New York: Pergamon.

  • Comfort, L. K. (2005) “Risk, Security, and Disaster Management,” Annual Review of Political Science, 8:335–356. [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Committee on Homeland Security (2013) “Emerngency Mgmt 2.0: How #SocialMedia & New Tech are Transforming Preparedness, Response, & Recovery #Disasters.” Comittee on Homeland Security Retrieved Serial No. 113-20. Available at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg85685/html/CHRG-113hhrg85685.htm.

  • Denef, S., P. S. Bayerl and N. Kaptein (2013) Social Media and the Police-Tweeting Practices of British Police Forces during the August 2011 Riots. Paper Presented at the 2013 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2013).

  • Drabek, Thomas E. (2010) The Human Side of Disaster. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

  • Eveleth, R. (2012) Hurricane Sandy: Five Ways to Spot a Fake Photograph, BBC.com, Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121031-how-to-spot-a-fake-sandy-photo.

  • FEMA (2011) A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action. Washington, DC.

  • Fugate, Craig (2011) Understanding the Power of Social Media as a Communication Tool in the Aftermath of Disasters. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs. Available at: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2011/05/04/written-statement-craig-fugate-administrator-federal-emergency-management-agency.

  • Gastil, J. (2008) Political Communication and Deliberation. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

  • Haddow, G. D. and K. Haddow (2014) Disaster Communications in a Changing Media World, 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

  • Heverin, T. and L. Zach (2012) “Use of Microblogging for Collective Sense-making During Violent Crises: A Study of Three Campus Shootings,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(1):34–47.

  • Hu, Q. and N. Kapucu (2014) “Information Communication Technology Utilization for Effective Emergency Management Networks,” Public Management Review, 1–26. [Crossref]

  • Hughes, A. L. and L. Palen (2012) “The Evolving Role of the Public Information Officer: An Examination of Social Media in Emergency Management,” Journal of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, 9(1):1–20.

  • Hughes, A. L., L. A. St. Denis, L. Palen and K. M. Anderson (2014) Online Public Communications by Police & Fire Services during the 2012 Hurricane Sandy. Paper Presented at the 2014 International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2014).

  • IBM Corp. Released 2013. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 22.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.

  • Kapucu, N. (2006) “Interagency Communication Networks during Emergencies: Boundary Spanners in Multiagency Coordination,” The American Review of Public Administration, 36(2):207–225. [Crossref]

  • Kendra, J. and T. Wachtendorf (2003) “Reconsidering Convergence and Convergence Legitimacy in Response to the World Trade Center Disaster.” In: (L. Clarke, ed.) Terrorism and Disaster: New Threats, New Ideas (Vol. 11). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 97–122. [Web of Science]

  • Latonero, M. and I. Shklovski (2011) “Emergency Management, Twitter, and Social Media Evangelism,” International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (IJISCRAM), 3(4):1–16.

  • Lindell, Michael K. and Ronald W. Perry (2012) “The Protective Action Decision Model: Theoretical Modifications and Additional Evidence,” Risk Analysis, 32(4):616–632. [Web of Science]

  • Mergel, I. (2011) “Government 2.0 Revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector,” PA Times, 33(3):7–10.

  • Mergel, I. (2012) Social Media in the Public Sector: Participation, Collaboration, and Transparency in a Networked World. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

  • Mergel, I. (2013) “Social Media Adoption and Resulting Tactics in the U.S. Federal Government,” Government Information Quarterly, 30(2):123–130.

  • Mergel, I. (2014) Social Media Practices in Local Emergency Management: Results from Central New York, Report. Available at: http://sotechem.syr.edu.

  • Nabatchi, T. (2012) “Putting the ‘Public’ Back in Public Values Research: Designing Participation to Identify and Respond to Values,” Public Administration Review, 72(5):699–708. [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Phillips, B., D. M. Neal and G. Webb (2012) Introduction to Emergency Management. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

  • Ripberger, Joseph T., Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Carol L. Silva, Deven E. Carlson and Matthew Henderson (2014) “Social Media and Severe Weather: Do Tweets Provide a Valid Indicator of Public Attention to Severe Weather Risk Communication?” Weather, Climate, and Society, 6(4):520–530. [Web of Science]

  • Southwell, B. G. (2013) Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • St. Denis, L. A., A. L. Hughes and L. Palen (2012) Trial by Fire: The Deployment of Trusted Digital Volunteers in the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire. Paper Presented at the The 9th International ISCRAM Conference.

  • St. Denis, L. A., L. Palen and K. M. Anderson (2014) Mastering Social Media: An Analysis of Jefferson Countys Communications during the 2013 Colorado Floods. Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management Conference (ISCRAM 2014), State College, PA.

  • Su, Yee San, Clarence Wardell III and Zoë Thorkildsen (2013) Social Media in the Emergency Management Field: 2012 Survey Results. Arlington, VA: CNA.

  • Sutton, J. N. (2009) “Social Media Monitoring and the Democratic National Convention: New Tasks and Emergent Processes,” Journal of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, 6(1):1–20.

  • Sutton, J. N. (2010) Twittering Tennessee: Distributed Networks and Collaboration Following a Technological Disaster. Paper Presented at the 7th International ISCRAM Conference.

  • Sutton, J., E. Spiro, C. Butts, S. Fitzhugh, B. Johnson and M. Greczek (2013a) “Tweeting the Spill: Online Informal Communications, Social Networks, and Conversational Microstructures during the Deepwater Horizon Oilspill,” International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (IJISCRAM), 5(1):58–76.

  • Sutton, Jeannette, Britta Johnson, Emma Spiro, and Carter Butts (2013b) “Tweeting What Matters: Information, Advisories, and Alerts Following the Boston Marathon Events,” Online Research Highlight. Available at: http://heroicproject.org.

  • Sutton, J., E. Spiro, B. Johnson, S. Fitzhugh, S. Gibson and C. Butts (2014) “Warning Tweets: Serial Transmission of Messages during the Warning Phase of a Disaster Event,” Information, Communication & Society, 17(6):765–787.

  • Tierney, K. and E. L. Quarantelli (1989) “Needed Innovation in the Delivery of Emergency Medical Services in Disasters: Present and Future,” Disaster Management, 2(2):70–76.

  • Tierney, K. J., M. K. Lindell and R. W. Perry (2001) Facing the unexpected: Disaster preparedness and response in the United States. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

  • Wald, D. J., V. Quitoriano and J. W. Dewey (2006). USGS “Did you feel it?” Community Internet Intensity Maps: Macroseismic Data Collection via the Internet. Paper Presented at the First European Conference on Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Geneva, Switzerland.

  • Wukich, C. (forthcoming). Social Media Use in Emergency Management. Journal of Emergency Management.

  • Wukich, C. and A. Steinberg (2014) “Nonprofit and Public Sector Participation in Self-organizing Information Networks: Twitter Hashtag and Trending Topic Use during Disasters,” Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 4(2):83–109.

  • Zavattaro, S. M. and A. J. Sementelli (2014) “A Critical Examination of Social Media Adoption in Government: Introducing Omnipresence,” Government Information Quarterly, 31(2):257–264. [Web of Science]

About the article

Corresponding author: Clayton Wukich, Department of Political Science, Sam Houston State University, 1901 Avenue I, Rm 496D, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2015-07-15

Published in Print: 2015-09-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0074. Export Citation

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in