Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trending: Social Media Use During Disasters

Coming on the heels of the American Red Cross' (ARC) opening of a Social Media Operations Center back in March (See: American Red Cross Opens a Social Media Operations Center), two publications have recently revisited the topic of social media use during disasters. Sources and points of interest from these discussions include:

Homeland Security Newswire article of March 20, 2012
  • 1/3 of respondents would use social media to alert family and friends that they were safe.
  • 80% felt that emergency response organizations should monitor social media sites regularly.
  • The internet is the third most popular way for the public to gather information about emergencies.

North Carolina State University News Release of May 22, 2012: Highlighting the upcoming release of Dr. Andrew Binder's paper on Twitter use following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, the news release noted:
"...that social media haven’t changed what we communicate so much as how quickly we can disseminate it." 

Additional background information on these trends (and more) can be found on the American Red Cross web site announcing the opening of their Social Media Digital Operations Center for Humanitarian Relief.  Go here.

Comment: During the Katrina/Rita disaster, the greatly accelerated and near continuous flow of information by the 24/7 televised news media meant more than a few units of government were caught red-faced by "not so" timely information they were providing at news conferences.  Similarly, unless the public relations function of the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) gets its arms around the rapidly expanding capabilities of social media to further accelerate the transmission of disaster related information, another credibility gap looms in the future.  Case in point: unlike the approach taken by many ESS organizations who have tried to stick their toe in the social media pool by simply broadcasting their news items using Twitter and the rest, the American Red Cross effort mentioned above is more like a listening post on the web so that it knows what is happening and can transmit its message accordingly.  In other words, the ARC understands that social media going forward means the response community will have to be prepared for a bi-directional flow of social media information to-from the public in volumes never seen before.

Lead graphic: Mr Mojo Risin

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