FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Late-breaking PAO weather report: Not only did Fort Belvoir go through a massive winter storm, but the post also went through a social media storm of information.

As a sort of disclaimer, I helped update Belvoir's Facebook and Twitter pages during and after the events. Throughout the week, I've been in awe by some of the things happening as a result of the community using social media.

The numbers alone speak volumes. Friday morning Belvoir's Facebook had about 950 'friends,' and, as I write this Tuesday night, we have around 1,300, and are averaging about 10 to 15 comments to each posting.

The garrison public affairs office stands behind the idea of using social media to engage, not to solely push information out.

I saw the community post their own photos; create fun activities such as flashlight tag and sledding groups; and keep each other updated on what their roads were like, if they had power, what supplies were available at the commissary and when the Garden Center had shovels available.

A captain used the site to keep his unit's Soldiers apprised of the current conditions on post.

One of the most memorable events for me was when a spouse posted a comment asking for help. Her husband is deployed and needed help shoveling out the driveway. Within minutes, I noticed neighbors had responded, asking her location. She later posted words of gratitude for those who came to help her.

Another was a note of praise for a warrant officer who stopped to help someone change a tire in the middle of the snowstorm.

Military community members have always been there for each other. But the photos I saw of neighbors helping each other, opening their homes during power outages to strangers in need, volunteering snow plows and shovels not only touched my heart and reminded me why I have such a passion for supporting the military, but showed the power social media has behind it to make things happen.

The public affairs office made sure openings and closings were posted, but we were incredibly thankful for all the organizations that provided us information and posted their own statuses.

It takes a team effort to update news and weather stations, social media sites, the hotline, list servs, and Web pages, and it's always appreciated when organizations participate. It can get tricky with more than 120 tenant organizations on post.

Not only did the social media storm provide updates, but also provided entertainment. We asked you all to name our weather penguin, and tell us what you thought about the Super Bowl and commercials.

We held a competition for who could guess the amount of snow. Based on measurements taken by the weather office at Davison Army Airfield, they report the amount at 21.8 inches. Out of 62 guesses, the one who came closest is Connie Myers, who works in Belvoir's BRAC Office. Connie guessed 21.75 inches.

I had also been seeing some clever tags such as ... snOMG, snoverkill, snowmaggedon, snowpocalypse, snOVERit, sNOproblem, SNOmore, snoverdose and asked the community to comment on or add their favorites. Snow you didn't and SNOtorious B.I.G. were some of the clever ones.

We also heard from the community as to what worked well for you during the storm and what didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped, leaving us room for improvement.

Conversations from the community included information about school closings, trash pick up, classes, winter safety tips, emergency numbers, power outages, plowing and road conditions.

If you are skeptical of the PAO weather report on social media, know that Facebook and Twitter were the first places many looked for information.

Betty Mayers commented, "All I can say is amazing! This has been the first place I look for any information! Rather than having to look in multiple places for info, it's ALL here ... hours of operation, closings ... not to mention the first-hand tips from people who can say, 'Standing in front of (insert milk, shovels, toilet paper, etc) at (insert commissary, Target, 7-11)'. This venue has been an information AND a sanity check."

Don Carr, director of Fort Belvoir public affairs, came away impressed with the hundreds of residents who were all over Facebook during the power outage with their cell phones and other PDAs. He was struck by one lady's post who said she had trouble reading the Notes page on her handheld. So she called her mother in Seattle, who logged onto the Belvoir page and read the update to her.

This understanding of how it was the community that was engaging Belvoir's Facebook page made keeping the updates coming all the more critical.

Page last updated Fri February 12th, 2010 at 00:00