The Case for Integrating Crisis Response with Social Media
Chapter One: Introduction
Social media and social technologies have altered communication patterns, particularly in timesof disaster. The public has begun to rely on social media to share information duringemergencies with family, friends and increasingly, with government and aid organizations whomaintain social networking profiles. This has created an unexpected side effectin whichresponding authorities and aid organizations are expected to be aware of and respond toemergency requests for help coming from such sources as Facebook, Twitter, and textmessages. Additionally, there is a growing network of independent citizens who want to assistin times of emergency, and they are using social media tools to organize and deliver aid.The social web is creating a fundamental shift in disaster response that is asking emergencymanagers, government agencies, and aid organizations to mix their time-honored expertisewith real-time input from the public. As of today, most of us are not yet ready to collect,respond or react to this incoming social data in a timely manner. The use of publicly availabledata in times or places of crisis raises issues of authenticity, privacy, veracity and ownership.Responding to this challenge requires the collective input of government agencies, firstresponders, technology companies, public safety officials and the general public. Creating aprocess and system of response for this data is crucial for one compelling reason: we are seeingmore and more headlines in which people have turned to social media channels as their firstchoice of communication during a crisis and we, as a response and aid community, must getahead of this trend to remain effective.Here are just a few examples of how this trend is playing out in the real world.Girls trapped in storm drain use Facebook to call for helpinstead of calling emergencyservices. This story from a2009 UK newspaper, recounts the story of two Australian girls, aged10 and 12, who updated their Facebook status as a cry for help when they found themselves ina precarious situation. Luckily for them, a schoolmatesaw the status updateand summonedaid.