MwRSF’s Christine Wittich News Feature

Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and NTC researcher Dr. Christine Wittich was featured in University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Transportation Research Board (TRB) newsletters for her research on crisis communications. Assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, Dr. Wittich is the principal investigator of her project developing better communication practices for state departments of transportation.

The research, funded by $45,000 from the TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program through the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on use of social media during emergencies, whether it be natural disasters, civil unrest, or large traffic jams. Dr. Wittich explains that when it comes to emergency notifications, different states react in different ways, resulting in “a mismatched approach across the country and even within states.”

The project documents the social media practices of departments of transportation during emergencies, and considers multiple aspects during evaluation. The process includes collecting the types of emergency scenarios and the types of social media monitored. Information on use of data before, during, and after events and the processes used for filtering data for accuracy, relevance, and actionability are noted along with the barriers to collecting data including privacy issues, restrictions, and policies. Finally, the team carefully looks at how each department of transportation measures the effectiveness of collecting and using social media data. The hope is that this information gathering will lead the project to developing the best practices on using social media in departments of transportation during emergency situations.

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