Social Media in the Nation’s Capital

Two quick notes from our neighbor to the south, Washington,
D.C. The first is a good thing, the second is up for some debate. The
official line is that it’s good, while some folks think it’s not so

This article on
gives the
low-down on the first:

The District of Columbia’s emergency management agency is making changes to the way it alerts the public about emergencies and will likely advise people to stay put rather than try to drive home during future disasters, officials said at a D.C. Council hearing Thursday.

This is a nice change because, to put it bluntly, emergency evacuation
sucks. Witness the Texas coast evacuation before Hurricane Rita, the
disaster that was Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001 and combine
that with the new recommendations for sheltering-in-place after a
radiological disaster. Especially in very crowded cities, evacuation
should be the last resort.

This change came about as a result of the August 23rd Virginia
earthquake, when traffic out of Washington was—again—disastrous.
There is some indictment of the authorities for not alerting the
public more quickly, but frankly, the public now understands that
evacuation is a first choice, so when something happens, and they
don’t get other information, they evacuate. (And boy, what a secondary
target that is!)

Glad to see the change; not only in messaging, but also in mindset.

The second piece today comes from, and is about a
change in staffing at DC F&EMS. Now, I try not to get into internal
fights, but this one has the potential to do some real damage in my
opinion. Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the Department, was recently
reassigned to the Office of the Secretary of DC. Again, not usually a
big deal, except for what happened a couple of weeks ago:

Piringer was prolific in his tweeting of breaking news and information, but sources inside the mayor’s office say there was blowback from other agencies that Piringer’s tweets were making them look slow and unresponsive.


Since the clampdown on the department Twitter account (@dcfireems), the feed has gone from tweeting real time information about fires and other incidents to a recent picture of Mayor Gray with McGruff the Crime Dog.

Why I combined these two (basically minor) stories into one was that
the thing that prompted the positive change in the first story is
exactly the thing that was shut down in the second story. DC F&EMS had
an amazing reputation in that community for pushing out information in
a timely and comprehensive fashion. “Gold standard,” is how a
colleague of mine put it once. And then the Administration closes that
down, while also saying that a lesson learned after the earthquake was
that they needed to communicate better and more quickly.

Just a lesson for everyone (yes, me too) who forgets that nothing—if
the allegations are true—trumps politics, not even emergencies. Be
careful out there, folks.


One thought on “Social Media in the Nation’s Capital

  1. This line was the killer: “…there was blowback from other agencies that Piringer’s tweets were making them look slow and unresponsive.” Nothing like stomping the blooming flowers back into the mud with the rest of the weeds. Luckily, there are some agencies like the LAFD whose top brass support their efforts wholeheartedly.

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