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Allegheny County uses Twitter, Facebook to report on conditions in the storm

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

When the superstorm toppled trees and power lines in Allegheny County, the Twitterverse was among the first to know.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, Amie Downs, posted about 140 tweets during the storm to let followers know about everything from a tree down across a road on Washington Pike in South Fayette to flooded basements in Millvale and Elizabeth.

The communication went both ways.

“We had people contacting us through Facebook and Twitter, and if we didn't have that information, (I'd) give it to operators. We received so much feedback and information,” Downs said. “This is something we talked about doing previously before the storm.”

Downs was at the county's 911 center until about 2 a.m. Tuesday posting to Twitter and started again about 7 a.m. She watched storm-related calls come in on a computer screen and posted relevant ones for public consumption.

Downs tweeted simultaneously under the Twitter names for the county, @Allegheny_Co, and Fitzgerald, @ACE_Fitzgerald.Fitzgerald said this was the first time county officials used social media to update the public in nearly real-time.

“Amie was literally sending it out as it was coming in,” Fitzgerald said.

Fayette County emergency officials, Duquesne Light, West Penn Power and the town of Ocean City, Md., were among other entities that used Twitter to provide public updates.

Sue Griffith, public information officer for the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency, gave nearly 40 storm-related updates on Twitter — @FCEMA911 — and Facebook. She said she's been using social media for more than two years to get updates out.

“It's helping us reach a bigger audience. A lot of people re-tweet the information. There were friends of friends pushing out the information we had,” Griffith said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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