The U.S. Department of Agriculture is announcing the availability of a free media search tool that allows government agencies to quickly create media distribution lists to share vital safety information.

“This system provides federal and state government agencies a new way to identify and target media outlets that cover any geographic area, down to less than a mile, to reach the public with essential safety information about a range of public safety and health threats,” said Dirk Fillpot, communications coordinator with USDA’s Office of Communications.

The GIS-Based Media System tool is available free of charge to government agencies. Contact Fillpot at dirk.fillpot@usda.gov to request access.

Fillpot said the tool, developed in conjunction with federal partners, allows users to perform searches against any geographic information system layer, including GIS layers specific to individual agencies.

The system searches and generates distribution lists for those outlets, allowing users to distribute information to media serving specific geographic regions of interest, including hurricane cones or demographic layers.

Examples of how the system could be used to improve hyperlocal media outreach efforts:

Energy: promote wind energy in areas of the country where strong winds are prevalent most of the year; promote advances delivering better electricity reliability in an area served by improved infrastructure.

Transportation projects: select a portion of highway slated for an infrastructure project and promote the work to media serving those who would use that stretch of interstate; in case of bridge collapses, distribute information to media in areas where travelers would need to find alternate routes.

Disaster response: target news outlets specifically serving areas affected by active wildfires and hurricane cones without needing to send releases statewide; targeting areas affected by CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) incidents to provide health and safety information.

Public safety: target media serving populations within any mile range (from one-tenth of a mile up to 1,000 miles) from a site of a hazmat/nuclear incident; target media in area where a most-wanted fugitive was spotted.

Border security: promote apprehensions along a particular portion of the border to media outlets that serve people living in that area.

Agriculture: select areas of the state where particular crops are grown to highlight state programs benefitting those producers.

Health: promote health tips following heat advisories issued in your state by the National Weather Service.

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