While many view Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites simply as hobbies for "wired" young people, evidence is surfacing showing how social networks are becoming important tools and considerations for both citizens and responders during a crisis situation.
Douglas Idugboe makes this point in a blog post covering social media trends. He highlights a study just released by the American Red Cross entitled "Social Media in Disasters and Emergencies." The findings were released ahead of Thursday's Emergency Social Data Summit in Washington, D.C.
The online survey of just over 1000 Americans 18 years and older examined a representative sample of the U.S. population. Findings from the study include:
- One in six have used social media to get information about an emergency
- About half of respondents would sign up for emails, text alerts, or applications to receive emergency information such as location of food, evacuation routes, etc. (presumably during an event as we know sign up rates are not that high typically)
- About half say they would mention an emergency through their own social media channels
- Just over half say they would send a text message to an available response agency if someone they knew needed help (implications for the NG9-1-1 discussion)
- During an emergency, almost half would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe. The vast majority (86%) of these would use Facebook to accomplish this.
- Almost 70% say response agencies should regularly monitor their sites and respond to postings for help
Though online behaviors in response to public warnings were not examined specifically in this study, we can nevertheless imagine how social media plays a role. Clearly, citizens expect to use these information channels to validate and enhance their knowledge of a situation. And, an increasing number expect to be able to interact with responders through them. Though still in its early stages, social media should be a growing consideration for emergency managers across the country.
Galain Solutions, Inc. helps public safety agencies develop effective emergency notification programs. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.