Hurricane Irene: FEMA Urges People to Tweet, Facebook

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Cell phone networks can crash during an emergency, while social media is considered a more reliable form of communication.

When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, New York residents were reading about it on Twitter before they felt the tremors themselves. Social media has become a force when it comes to dealing with forces of nature.

Now, as the East Coast prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging people to again turn to Twitter and other social media sites over their cell phones.

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"Mobile phone devices are good tools, but they shouldn't be the only tool," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said to reporters during a conference call about Hurricane Irene.

Cell phone mobile networks can often become overwhelmed immediately following a natural disaster as people try to reach out to their family and friends. Posting an update on Facebook or Twitter can be a more efficient way to reach out to loved ones.

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"Cell systems and any type of system you have, you're gonna have congestion in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake or other disaster,” said Fugate. “Not being able to communicate with loved ones [after such an event] can be very distressing."