As natural disasters affect many communities across Oregon, people contact Extension and search online to get quick answers, to learn more on the subject and to get more expertise in it.

During the peak time during recent wildfires, visitors to the Extension website more than doubled to 18,000 daily compared to the usual 7,000 daily in the weeks before and after. It was also a slight increase in those viewing from mobile devices (65% vs. 57%).

The information people needed did not just come from Extension’s Forestry and Natural Resources Fire Program (627 pageviews) and their events, but also content from Extension’s other program areas. Extension Communications worked with Extension leaders, content team leaders and faculty and staff to coordinate coverage online.

Where can we direct people to find current information?

Topic pages

Already having topic pages that curate content in one place on the Extension website helped with timely turnaround needed.

A quick review of existing topic pages helped to add new calls to actions and feature relevant content. New content produced also automatically appeared under latest resources and news. The relevant topic pages included:

  • Fire (1858 pageviews in September)

Fire topic page with Announcement about Post-Fire Webinar Series and below that a call to action box "Learn what is happening in your community" with link to the Fire Program

Family Emergency Preparedness topic page with announcement about community emergency Wi-Fi access and a call to action box for Oregonians to stay safe and informed with link to State of Oregon resource hub

Community Disaster Preparedness topic page with Announcement for Livestock hay and feed donation request at top and a call to action with link to "real-time map of fires in Oregon"

New content related to smoke and ash information also could easily be tagged to show on related livestock, gardening, health outreach, food safety and wine grapes topic pages.

Announcements

Similarly, ways to easily tag announcements to show across the Extension website helped with quick notifications to communities no matter where they enter the site.

Extension Communications coordinated with Extension leaders and county web coordinators on announcements to appear on county pages and any related topic pages. These included:

  • Livestock hay donations (289 pageviews in September)
  • Safety alert closures of offices (198 pageviews)
  • Emergency community wi-fi access (55 pageviews)
  • Disaster relief support and mask distributions (44 pageviews)

Employee intranet

The employee resources website also provided a place to share internal information on administrative and communication questions that arose on the wildfire issue.

Updates to the wildfire information resources for Extension employees webpage had 160 pageviews in September. It offers expense tracking, activity reporting and volunteering information that will be useful to know for any emerging issue.

Top page of the Employee Intranet Wildfire Information - shows smoke image with box with link under heading "Stay safe and informed"

How do we get new content that our audiences need online quickly?

Most visitors to the website arrive directly on our educational content. Extension faculty crafted multiple new articles and answered Ask an Expert questions to publish on the Extension site during the peak of the wildfires.

It’s great when we have original, trusted content to promote and that our educators are taking time to do that. Here’s some of the results for month of September:

  1. What should I do about the wildfire ash covering my yard and garden? | new Featured Ask an Expert question – 45,334 pageviews
  2. Take precautions when wildfire ash falls on fruits and vegetables | new News story – 30,439 pageviews
  3. Is it safe to eat my garden produce affected by wildfires? | new Featured Ask an Expert question – 16,972 pageviews
  4. What effect will the 2020 fires have on bees? | new Web article – 4734 pageviews
  5. After a wildfire | existing Web article – 1671 pageviews
  6. Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes and Fire-Resistant Landscape Plants for the Willamette Valley | existing Catalog publications — 1531 combined pageviews
  7. During a wildfire | existing Web article – 1214 pageviews
  8. The Home Ignition Zone: Protecting Your Property from Wildfire | existing Catalog publication – 1180 pageviews
  9. Fire FAQs—Who owns Oregon’s forests, and how does that matter when it comes to fire? | existing Catalog publication — 977 pageviews
  10. Impact of Smoke Exposure on Wine | existing Catalog publication – 752 pageviews
  11. Animal exposure to wildfire smoke | new Web article – 627 pageviews
  12. Fire FAQs—What is forest fuel, and what are fuel treatments? | existing Catalog publication — 533 pageviews
  13. Improve indoor air quality from wildfire smoke during COVID-19 | new Web article – 512 pageviews
  14. OSU Extension assists with livestock rescue efforts as Oregonians flee fires | new News story – 473 pageviews
  15. Once the smoke clears: A guide to safety start working and riding your horse | new Web article – 403 pageviews

Also added were key “online resources” from government sources or other Extension colleagues, especially bilingual content on evacuation safety, wildfire smoke, and fire prevention.

Where time is of the essence, some of the most timely ways to publish content are:

  • Ask an Expert question/answer (Extension Communications monitors and can add timely, relevant content as “featured questions” to the Extension website.)
  • Publish a new article, or revise an existing one (Post through your content team.)
  • Add an online resource through your content team (Link to a credible outside source.)

You may also be interviewed for news stories published by Extension Communications writers.

Later, your team may also want to revise or create a new peer-reviewed Extension Catalog publication.

People are taking the time to fully read this information too – often spending over five minutes and more on each article. Together all this online content captured ways Extension educates, collaborates and supports efforts in the state when natural disasters happen.

How can we best let people know about our useful resources?

If you create content based on questions you’re hearing from our audiences or other trends, then there will likely be more interest when you share it. The pieces of content that attracted most pageviews also had about 45% who arrived via Facebook social media referrals.

Sometimes how you present it on social media helps too. One piece of wildfire content had over half its views come from Facebook. This could be because of the post’s creative photo slideshow about 4-H assistance with rescued livestock.

During this time, the most popular Facebook post shared urgent tips right in the message if they clicked to see more.

Post with infographic "When the fire nears you... Anticipating an evacuation? Steps to take now" with steps listed. Shared 747 times and 29 comments.

Direct referrals to the online content, such as from your email distribution lists, also increased. During this wildfire peak time, 34% arrived from a direct URL compared to around 13% other weeks in September.

While we featured this new and timely content each day on the Extension homepage, the OSU Alumni website also featured our information on their site too. What other partners do you know of that highlighted our content on their sites?

When the next natural disaster comes to Oregon, such as a water-related emergency, keep in mind these ways that your content can be nimble and ready to go when needed.

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