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Las Vegas PD lauded for online response during mass shooting

As a Las Vegas concert turned tragic, many flocked to social media for information.

On Sunday night, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of people attending a concert at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Paddock, who is now dead, fired shots from the window of his 32nd-floor hotel room at Mandalay Bay Resort before police officers entered the room. At least 50 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in the shootings and resulting pandemonium.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department immediately turned to Twitter to update area citizens and members of the news media:

Other organizations, such as McCarran International Airport, also used Twitter for crisis communications:

How social media has changed news distribution

LVPD also posted its media briefings with Sheriff Joe Lombardo to its YouTube channel and shared updates on its Facebook page:

By posting announcements and press conferences directly to its social media profiles, the police department could spread information more quickly and dispel false reports.

For example, Lombardo said during the first media briefing:

There have been multiple, multiple phone calls coming through and accusations or conjecture coming through social media that there is [sic] multiple shooters at other resorts. That has proven to be false. Additionally, there has been accusations or beliefs that there is some explosives going off. That is also false. The only explosive contained in this event was from our SWAT team breaching the room.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: 13 tips for preparing for a crisis]

LVPD tweeted also information for family members looking to locate loved ones and those wanting to donate blood:

Many people posted videos and updates about the shooting via platforms such as Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.

Though such information is often used by journalists reporting on breaking news, LVMPD highlighted the necessity for organizations to take the lead in disseminating correct information during crises. Doing so can help organize efforts to inform members of the news media, stop false reports from gaining traction and help people to take action, such as donating blood.

From online information to sympathy

LVMPD also tweeted its condolences to the families of the shooting’s victims. It message was joined by a similar tweet from Mandalay Bay Resort:

Jason Aldean, the musician on stage when Paddock opened fire, posted this on Instagram:

Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate

A post shared by Jason Aldean (@jasonaldean) on 

Not only can social media provide heavily trafficked channels to disseminate information during crises, but it can also help organizations and people relay messages of sympathy in tragic events.

Reporters, officials must find the proper balance online

Though many PR pros respond appropriately to tragic events, others could benefit from a few crisis communications lessons.

On Monday, People was slammed on Facebook for posting a Live video with the caption, “The latest on the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 50 killed, 200+ wounded at Jason Aldean concert, plus more news from People”:

The show’s anchors shared updates of the shooting in the video, but critics lashed out at the juxtaposition of shooting updates between entertainment news and celebrity stories:

Other reporters were criticized for asking to use videos for their organizations’ stories:

One way to avoid criticism when reporting on breaking news is to take a more compassionate approach.

Heather Mills, an anchor for News 3 Las Vegas, posted the following Facebook Live video to her page:

LVPD, though lauded for its response to the shooting, faced its own problem with online communications—people livestreaming or tweeting information about what its police force was doing to find and catch the shooter:

As social media continues to be where people turn during crises, organizations must become increasingly savvy to navigate potential communications pitfalls and quickly, but accurately, relay information and other messages.

(Image via)