Organizations operating within emergency management are adjusting their communication policies and procedures in order to make the entire process of dealing with disasters more efficient. Due to the social media explosion as a communications tool, it has been obvious that the next step in approaching disasters’ management process will be the use of social media as an efficient method.
The American Red Cross conducted a survey on uses of social media and found: “1/3 of respondents would use social media to alert family and friends that they were safe. 80% felt that emergency response organizations should monitor social media sites regularly. The internet is the third most popular way for the public to gather information about emergencies.
And the recent Sandy Hurricane has demonstrated the power of social media. Therefore, it has been proven that social media is more than social, it has actually become a useful tool in disaster management operations. Thus, Twitter created a special page dedicated to Sandy that include accounts of government, politicians, public safety officials and weather reports.
The social analytics firm Topsy reported nearly 3.5 million tweets with the hashtag #sandy in the first 24 hours of the Sandy Hurricane.The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for instance, tweeted direction for finding shelters using SMS messages such as: #Sandy East coast, search for open shelters by texting: SHELTER + a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA). Ex: Shelter 01234 (std rates apply)
To prove how important social media (especially Twitter) has become in all this process, the next 3 charts speak for themselves:The first graph below presents the number of tweets containing in addition to the word “earthquake” also the word “collapse” between 11/28/2011 – 01/17/2012…
The 2nd graph below shows a graph with the number of tweets containing in addition to the word “earthquake” also the word “nuclear”.
The graph below shows a graph with the total number of tweets containing the word “earthquake” in the same period of time.
The first and most important future trend that is emphasized is the technological and social integration in the disaster management. Generally speaking, agencies/organizations are trying to make available reports regarding disasters management via as many mobile devices as possible. Basically, everyone involved in a disaster management process and having a mobile device becomes a live correspondent and let people know what is going on.
Therefore, GDACS (The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System) is planning to extend the Twitter parser they have already created by more disaster keywords (e.g. “flood“, “tsunami“,“storm“, “hurricane“ etc.) and by more languages. Practically, the analysis will be automatically included into the GDACS website as an additional valuable source of information for the international disaster response community.
Not only has launched the company a mobile application in 2012, but their plan is to be able to correctly process the information for the added pieces of info, in this way trying to resemble with Twitter analysis of the respective data. Basically, their idea is to be able to generate accurate reports of the added information similar to the ones Twitter is providing users with.
Overall, social media has become much more than an entertainment or a marketing tool but more importantly, it proves each and every day how useful it can be when disasters occurs and when saving lives is a priority….