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More Americans Using Social Media and Technology in Emergencies
New American Red Cross Survey Finds High Expectations on Response Organizations
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, August 24, 2011
Americans are relying more and more on social media, mobiletechnology and online news outlets to learn about ongoing disasters, seek help and share information about their well-being after emergencies, according to two new surveys conducted by the American Red Cross.The surveys, one by telephone of the general population and a second online survey, continue to show that the vastmajority of Americans believe response organizations should be both monitoring social media during disasters andacting quickly to help.“Social media is becoming an integral part of disaster response,” said Wendy Harman, director of social strategy for theAmerican Red Cross. “During the record-breaking 2011 spring storm season, people across America alerted the RedCross to their needs via Facebook. We also used Twitter to connect to thousands of people seeking comfort, andsafety information to help get them through the darkest hours of storms.”Key findings include:
Followed by television and local radio, the internet is the third most popular way for people to gather emergency information with 18 percent of both the general and the online population specifically usingFacebook for that purpose
Nearly a fourth (24 percent) of the general population and a third (31 percent) of the online populationwould use social media to let loved ones know they are safe;
Four of five (80 percent) of the general and 69 percent of the online populations surveyed believe thatnational emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social media sites in order to respondpromptly.
For those who would post a request for help through social media, 39 percent of those polled onlineand 35 of those polled via telephone said they would expect help to arrive in less than one hour.The surveys, which polled 1,011 telephone respondents and 1,046 online respondents, found that those from theonline survey population use a variety of technologies to both learn more about disasters and share information abouttheir well-being, including Facebook, Twitter, text alerts, online news sites and smart phone applications, suggestingthat there is no one-size-fits-all approach to using these tools during disasters.In contrast, people participating in the telephone survey tended to be more reliant on traditional media and non-socialwebsites like those belonging to local news outlets, government agencies or utility companies. The Red Cross surveyalso found that women and households with children are more likely to use social media channels to inform others of their safety.The survey findings show that the increasing use of social media and mobile technologies to get disaster informationand to seek help should cause response agencies to adjust their procedures to use social media more to engage withpeople in times of disaster and to include information from social networks in their response efforts.