Fugate revealed that many in the government tend to view public information as a liability and untrustworthy, but he points out that even censored official government platforms disseminate bad information now and then. But things like Twitter feeds provide opportunities to crowdsource and advance situational awareness.
One example Fugate noted was a man who was tweeting him weather updates during a tropical cyclone in American Samoa. Halfway through the storm, the man started tweeting NFL score updates. Fugate said that meant that the man still had satellite reception, the storm wasn't that bad, and the tweeter was a Packers fan.
Fugate stressed that it's important to adapt to the way the public is using information, and not just rely on old methods of pushing out messages, such as providing media interviews. If the public is relying on their cell phones and Twitter in an emergency, then agencies should leverage that, says Fugate.
He would like to see agencies develop Web sites that are practical to mobile users. For instance, when a user visits an agency's Web site on a smartphone, they will see useful information all at the top—such as numbers to call in an emergency. And he thinks that if agencies produce data feeds, such as a list of where disaster recovery centers are, it will not be long before there will be an application developed that will help users find the nearest one.
Fugate believes that if the information is pushed out in ways that the public can use, people will figure out the ways to best use it in a crisis.
♦ Snapshot of Fugate's Twitter page @CraigatFEMA