Tip Sheets

Idalia exposes Florida communications patchwork, limits to information access

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

Hurricane Idalia is gaining strength as it nears Florida, and officials have issued warnings, watches, and evacuation orders along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Rebecca Brenner

Senior Lecturer in the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy

Rebecca Brenner is a disaster policy expert and senior lecturer in the Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University, where she teaches courses on disasters, vulnerability, and resilience.

Brenner says:

“Each county in Florida is individually responsible for providing information to communities to act on these evacuation orders, which presents the opportunity to tailor responses specific to that county. However, this patchwork of communications also limits equitable access to information.

“Different counties have different capacities to disseminate information. Some places have an organized website with information coming directly from a verified source, while others have a Facebook page that is less organized and can present subjective information and interpretation. 

“Some evacuation zones may presume that all residents have access to the internet, a vehicle to drive to a site, can read, comprehend, while also having the capacity to act on the information. 

“It may be helpful to learn from this event, debrief, and combine communication platforms to have more equitable access to information, ensuring the most vulnerable in the community can act when needed.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.