One of the most important aspect of successful response and recovery is having effective and timely communications. Prior to the tornado, the Joplin area community worked to establish strong lines of communication between organizations, city government, and citizens. These open lines of communication grew and developed in to best practices that can be used by other communities. The following are a few examples of using communication channels to improve response and recovery.


Social Media–Social Media, primarily Facebook, played a huge role in timely communication after the tornado. In the first few days after the disaster, land-line telephones were often not functioning and cell phone reception was spotty. Families and friends relied on Volunteers in front of the Rebuild Joplin Officesocial media to verify the safety of loved ones. Facebook sites started up that connected people with emergency needs to agencies that could assist with those needs. Rebuild Joplin and Bright Futures used social media to connect volunteers and resources with unmet community needs. The City of Joplin and Joplin Public Schools used Facebook to provide information about emergent issues. While there is always the potential for incorrect information being shared, the benefits far outweighed the negatives from our experience. Disaster organizations, including the American Red Cross, are realizing the importance of social media and are using it as an effective tool in response and recovery. Check out the article from Scientific American “How Social Media Is Changing Disaster Response” for more information.


Hot Topics–Members of the Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) received weekly “Hot Topic” email alerts from the Multi-Agency Warehouse (MAW). These email alerts included unmet needs vetted by LTRC partner organizations. Hot Topics could include anything from a family needing a mattress to a church donating tools.  The benefit of this resource was that all information was verified by the partner agency prior to distributing.


United Way 211–This resource, developed prior to the disaster, provides information about registered agencies and services throughout Missouri. Individuals seeking resources can go online or call 211 to find referral information.


News Talk KZRG–While not directly affiliated with the COAD, this radio station became a lifeline to the community after the tornado. KZRG DJ Announces After the TornadoThe Radio Survivor website posted an article about how the station did an excellent job communicating with the public in the hours and weeks after the tornado.


Community Based Networks–Prior to the tornado, several community based networks had developed around service specific topics. Two examples are the Senior and Disability Network and the Jasper County Healthcare Coalition. After the tornado, these groups began meeting more frequently  weekly to ensure positive outcomes for community members. One of the most important things that our community realized after the disaster is that our linkages and planning prior to the disaster drastically helped to improve outcomes. Knowing the partners and having regular, meaningful communications with those partners is key.

The Jasper County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located at 303 East Third Street in Joplin, took swift action to educate the community and emergency services during the tornado.  The EOC’s purpose is to provide a central location to both coordinate and support disaster efforts. Such efforts include response and recovery from disasters of all types, both natural and man-made. This effort was best exemplified during and after the May 22, 2011 EF5 tornado that swept through Joplin and neighboring Duenweg. Thanks to many table top and full scale exercises in EOC operations prior to the tornado, local agencies, organizations and units of government knew how to come together in order to establish a Unified Command (UC). This UC met daily for the next several weeks to establish priorities, allocate scarce resources and communicate with stakeholders throughout the region and even the nation. The response to the Joplin Tornado owes its’ success in no small part to the effective operation of the EOC and UC.  Click here to review the Joplin/Jasper County EOC Operations Manual.