The Role of Social Media in Disaster Preparedness
As a nation we are using social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, during disasters. We use our mobile phones to check the status of the disrupting event, to learn and advice on how to better prepare and survive – together.
The Red Cross published a survey, “Social Media in Disasters and Emergencies” conducted in summer 2011 by ORC International in which they polled over 2,000 individuals.
In addition, 80% of the general public said they believe national emergency response organizations should monitor social media sites routinely to prepare for prompt responses. Among the survey participants 39% said they expect first responders to arrive less than an hour after pleas for help are posted online (Gaudin, Computerworld, 8/24).
The Red Cross also found that:
- 63% of the general public said they turn to online news during emergencies, while 90% said they rely on television news and 73% seek radio news
- 18% of the general public said they use Facebook to find information, while 5% use Twitter (Smith, National Journal, 8/24)
- 6% of the general public said they would “definitely” sign up for email or text alerts or other ways to receive safety information, while 21% said they “probably” would (Modern Healthcare, 8/24)
An Unusual Advocate ::
In May 2011, the US Senate held a panel discussion on “Understanding the Power of Social Media as a Communication Tool in the Aftermath of Disasters.” William Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], discussed how they use social media to facilitate two-way communication with the public in a disaster environment.
Highlights of his testimony:
- He emphasized the importance of adapting to the method and tools that the public use to communicate. FEMA, is striving to leverage the tools that people use on a daily basis, rather than try to convince the public to adjust to the way the government thinks they should communicate. ” Social media allows us to more fully engage the public as a critical partner in our efforts.”
- Administrator Fugate also talked about the use of “hashtags”. “We actively participate in the social media and emergency management conversation through the hashtag #smem.”
Red Cross survey snippets ::
When asked, nearly half [48%] of the general population admitted to participating in online communities or social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. Those in the general population who reside in metropolitan areas are more likely to participate in online communities or social networks (51% verses 40% for those who reside in non-metro areas).
Nearly 8 in 10 [79%] of the online population participates in at least one online community or social network. Facebook is the most popular social media channel by a long shot! Compared to last year more Americans online participate in at least one online community or social network:
- July 2010 72%
- June 2011 79%
55% of of those who use social media participate every day or nearly every day. I’m one of them!
Environmental Findings ::
- Almost half of the general population [48%] participates in online communities or social networks
- 79% of the online population participate in at least one online community or social network
- 55% of those who use social media participate every day or nearly every
- Participants with children in the household are more likely to use social media – 87% V 76% without children in the household
- College‐educated participants are more likely to use social media – 83% V 73% with a high school diploma or less
- Younger respondents are more likely to use social media – 93% of 18‐34 V 72% of those 35 years and older