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White Paper: The Case for Integrating Crisis Response With Social Media

White Paper: The Case for Integrating Crisis Response With Social Media

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Published by American Red Cross
http://bit.ly/crisisdata The American Red Cross is convening an ongoing conversation to close gaps around the public's expectation of how disaster responders use the social web and the reality of most government and nonprofit capacities.
http://bit.ly/crisisdata The American Red Cross is convening an ongoing conversation to close gaps around the public's expectation of how disaster responders use the social web and the reality of most government and nonprofit capacities.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: American Red Cross on Aug 11, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/27/2013

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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 effectin 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 helpinstead 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.
 
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Another example came when an Atlanta city councilman who encountered a woman in troubleon the street in 2009; because his cell phone battery was low, he turned to Twitter. Need aparamedic on corner of John Wesley Dobbs and Jackson St. Woman on the ground unconscious.Pls ReTweet. Hisactionsare believed to have saved her life.The frequency of stories like this accelerated into a virtual downpour after a devastatingearthquake rocked Haiti in January, 2010. A Canadian woman trapped in rubble after thequake, was rescued afterher text message for helpreached Canadas Foreign AffairsDepartment and was relayed back to Canadian authorities on the ground. The CanadianForeign Affairs ministerin his daily briefingstold reporters we know where this woman is,exactly.The challenge of a rescue effort in such a poor country, combined with its geographicchallenges, unfolded in the media in dramatic stories of success and failure. Not all the cries forhelp from social media channels had happy endings. Regine Madhere, a 27-year-old Haitianwoman who was trapped in the rubble of the Port au Prince supermarket in which she worked,sent a text messageto her cousin in France because she believed she heard rescue workersleaving the area. The cousin then sent a tweet to the Red Cross Twitter account asking for help.News organizationsreportedthat multiple rescue workers from several countries workedround-the-clock for days to free Madhere and others, whose families kept vigil near the site.While a number of people were rescued from under the supermarket rubble, Madhere diedbefore she, and many others, could be found.These stories carry a common thread: a person in trouble turns to what they believe is thequickest way to get help. In these cases, and many more, they turned to their preferred newmedia tool.This same social media technology has spawned numerous volunteer efforts in times of emergency, many of which have been instrumental in adding vital -- and accurate  information
 
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used to positive effect by first responders and decision makers. Beginning as early asSeptember, 2001, Andy Carvin, senior social strategist at National Public Radio (NPR), puttogether a Yahoo Group within hours after the September 11 tragedy called 
SEPT11INFO
and used volunteers spread throughout the city to make sense of rapidly changing informationon threats, road conditions and personal safety. (Interview, July 22, 2010)Another effort involved a team at Google, who created a solution now called Person Finder inthe aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, which was quickly coded, launched and operational.Todays technology offers endless possibilities and opportunities to aggregate data neverbefore envisioned by our society.The purpose of this paper is to examine how social data affects societal expectation of aid andits impact on emergency response, explore current technologies and individuals who havemade successful inroads in recent disasters, develop a plan to address this across theemergency spectrum, and create awareness of the cultural shift that is influencing all areas of disaster response today.

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