Over the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to reach someone at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give me a status update on my Freedom of Information Act request for a database.
I submitted the request on Oct. 4 and received a response saying the agency was taking a 10-day extension. After that, nothing. As of today, the request is on the verge of being several weeks past the deadline, even with the extension.
After writing e-mails and calling the FEMA FOIA hotline numerous times to get a status update, friends on Twitter pointed out that “Peggy” from USA Prime Credit must be in charge of the agency’s FOIA office.
FEMA FOIA hotline, I am Peggy.
Just when my frustration was about to transform into a demand letter, though, the unimaginable happened: A FOIA officer called me **on a Sunday**, apologized for the lack of communication and promised to get me what I needed this week.
How, after all this time, did I finally get a response? Well, I have a theory.
In case you didn’t know, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate has a Twitter account.
He goes by @CraigatFEMA - it’s a verified account - and almost exclusively posts information about the government agency.
In many ways, there isn’t much distinguishing his account from the official FEMA account, @FEMA. For that reason, I didn’t expect much - if any - response when I messaged Fugate about my FOIA woes with his agency.
I’ve written more than a few tweets directed at FEMA about the agency’s inability to return weeks of phone calls and respond to e-mails about my request. Which Tweet did the agency actually respond to? The one that mentions the boss, of course.
It reads like a form tweet and doesn’t really help. But pair the response with the weekend phone call, though, and I could make the case that it’s more effective to contact FEMA on Twitter than to actually call their office.
Of course, until the request is resolved, I’ll still be pressing the agency. It’s just a little nice to know that Peggy isn’t the only employee in the office.