As floods rage, open communication offers a lifeline

A crisis communication expert in Colorado finds himself on the other side of a major disaster and thereby becomes all the more appreciative of good messaging.

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With the tables turned, I relied on my government, businesses, and neighborhood groups to provide key information, such as: Is my water safe to drink? When will my power be back on? Can I flush the toilet? And who has a wet-vac I can borrow?

The rain began coming down in Boulder, Colo., and surrounding communities at the beginning of last week and didn’t let up until Monday. There were degrees of rainfall, from torrential to just simply rain, but not once did it cease.

The result was devastating as huge torrents of water flowed off the foothills and into our neighborhoods. Streets were turned into rivers that carried away everything in their way—including cars, trees, and homes. The lucky neighbors were those ones only flooded basements. The ones who got it worse saw their homes twisted by the water or completely flooded and washed away.

It’s being called the 100-year flood, with more rainfall in one week than we typically get in two years. FEMA descended on our town over the weekend and mobilized the largest airlift since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The best and the worst

During the storm, I found the best source of information—in terms of photos, videos, and status updates—to be Facebook.

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