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FEMA dispels rumors in attempts to limit spread of false Hurricane Irma information

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
September 10, 2017, 1:15:29 PM EDT

Earlier this week, videos claiming to show the effects of Irma in the Caribbean were shared on Facebook. The videos were from different storms several years ago, but they were still viewed by tens of millions.

The internet and social media can be useful in breaking news situations. Unfortunately, not all of the information being released is accurate and social media can allow false information to spread rapidly.

The fake Caribbean videos demonstrate the speed that false information can be spread. There have been numerous other false claims about Hurricane Irma.

Another example is a weather forecast predicting Irma would develop into a Category 6 hurricane was also widely shared. But such a storm designation does not exist.


Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long speaks during a news conference in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, about Harvey's devastating flooding. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“The scale was developed 1 to 5,” Joel Myers, the founder and president of AccuWeather, told New York times Tuesday, Sept. 5. “When you develop a scale 1 to 5, there can’t be any Category 6.”

“People’s lives are at stake,” Myers stated in his New York Times' interview. “If people get the wrong information and make the wrong decision, it’s a tragedy.”

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hopes to address the rumors by adding a "rumor control" page to its site.

FEMA's first online rumor control initiative was created for Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The page includes a number of "rumors" related to Irma and addresses their accuracy, or lack there of. It also highlights scams.

It addresses topics ranging from fuel shortages in Florida to disaster clean-up and inspections.

"There are reports that floodwaters bring a danger of plague. This is FALSE," one section reads.

The page addresses scams, such as Texas residents being told via robo-call that "their flood premiums are past due and in order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey they need to submit a payment immediately to a website," reads the site.

FEMA encourages people to share this page and spread the word in order to provide accurate information.

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