The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hopes to tackle false rumors about Hurricane Irma with a new “rumor control” page on its website.
The page lists a series of “rumors” related to Irma and says whether they are true or false. The page also highlights scams.
Topics cover pets in shelters and hotels, fuel demand in Florida, disaster clean-up and inspections and business access to disaster-affected areas.
“There are reports emergency shelters are required to accommodate pets and service animals belonging to people who have evacuated,” one section reads. “This is TRUE.”
FEMA points out, however, that hotels are not required to accommodate pets for people who have evacuated.
The agency warns of a scam whereby people posing as FEMA inspectors ask for personal information or are charging for services like damage inspection. But FEMA inspectors require only verification of identity, the agency says – and the only time people should provide personal information is during the initial FEMA assistance application process.
FEMA’s first online rumor control initiative was created for Hurricane Sandy in 2012, FEMA spokesman Will Booher told CNN.
Booher said members of the public are encouraged to contact FEMA on social media and by phone to flag rumors circulating online.
“Always verify the information you are seeing online,” Booher added.
The agency’s initiative comes as false reports about Hurricane Irma are shared across social media. Earlier in the week, videos purporting to show the effects of Irma in the Caribbean picked up tens of millions of views on Facebook. However, the videos were from different storms several years ago.
A weather forecast graphic predicting Irma would develop into a Category 6 storm was also widely shared. Such a storm designation does not exist.