Social media has become such an integral part of our lives that emergency responders are now turning to Twitter and Facebook to gain valuable information during natural disasters or crises
Social media has become such an integral part of our lives that emergency responders are now turning to Twitter and Facebook to gain valuable information during natural disasters or crises.
In fact, according to Wendy Harman, the director of social strategy for the American Red Cross, Tweets and Facebook updates travel faster than earthquakes themselves. During the 2011 earthquake in DC, individuals were reading tweets about the tremors before they were event felt.
In Forbes, Harman explains that the growing reliance on social media has pushed relief organizations like the Red Cross to begin monitoring public reports in an effort to respond more quickly and efficiently. More specifically, the Red Cross, working in conjunction with Dell, is building a Digital Operations Center that will allow the relief agency to respond to tweets.
“The command center’s analytics will give us a holistic view of a crisis situation and social conversations that yield information we can relay to decision-makers,” Harman writes. “It also allows us to smoothly scale with digital volunteers to respond to people in real time and inspire community action.”
The Red Cross’s increasing focus on social media comes as part of a broader societal shift in online communications. Based on a survey the relief agency conducted, nearly one-third of the United States used social media to alert family and friends that they were safe. In addition, 80 percent of those surveyed said emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social media platforms and nearly one-third expected action to result from their online requests.
In addition, Harman said the Internet is now the third most popular way for people to gather emergency information with 18 percent specifically using Facebook for this purpose.
In closing, Harman pushed other relief organizations to begin harnessing the power of social media.
“We encourage our peer organizations to take similar steps to incorporate social media into their response efforts,” she wrote.