The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 18, 2013

Rebecca Williams

Two years after the tornado, Rebecca Williams remains committed to helping people around the world keep up with the progress that has been made in Joplin.

Williams serves as the primary administrator of the Joplin Tornado Info page on Facebook, which still has more than 46,000 people following it.

The Neosho resident said that it was her daughter, Genevieve, who came up with the idea in the hours after the EF-5 tornado touched down in Joplin.

“She was working on some social media projects for other people and she set up the page,” Williams said. “There was such an information vacuum locally immediately after the tornado. She was finding that people throughout the nation had better information on what was happening. It was unreal.

“She looked at me wide-eyed and said, ‘How can we get more information?’ Then she had the bright idea to start the Facebook page.”

They spent the next few days trying to help find answers to questions people were posting — from the locations of triage centers, available shelter and trying to make connections with loved ones.

“We had citizen volunteers, some local and some not, who were pulling whatever information they could find and sharing it with us,” Williams said. “It was an amazing thing ... a grass-roots community effort. We vetted everything that we could and tried not to post hearsay. We were very careful to post from a trusted news source or information from someone we knew.”

Beyond the initial months of trying to share information, she began to see a larger role for the social media page.

“It started becoming apparent to me that it was a chronological documentation of Joplin’s recovery,” Williams said.

With her daughter attending college, Williams serves as the primary administrator for the page. When it first launched, she said that she was “remedial at best” when it came to using social media.

Early on, she began taking notes on how the page was being utilized in the hopes that someone else might find it useful.

Williams and her daughter partnered with David Burton with MU Extension to put together “The Use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery,” an online guide available through the Extension office. It includes information on how they set up the page, a template for initial posts following a disaster and best practices.

“We Googled it and found there’s really nothing similar out there,” she said. “We thought it would be helpful to have some guidelines in place. Our dream is for communities to have their social media infrastructure in place prior to a disaster.”

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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