Social Media, Emergency Management and You

Japanese Red Cross

The world’s obsession with social media has reached a fever pitch. The rate at which new networks pop up makes it really difficult to understand it all, let alone try to derive value from it. The best way to go about starting a social media program is to look at your organization’s primary tasks and any potential voids that need to be filled. Then, decide how you want to use social media to facilitate some of those tasks and fill the gaps. Lastly, identify which social networks will be the most useful in achieving these goals.

In the case of the Red Cross, this is how it would look:

The Task:

The Red Cross is one of the world’s most influential disaster relief and emergency management organizations. As such, many people many people expect the Red Cross to be one of the first on the scene in the wake of critical events both at the local and international levels. Furthermore, because of the Red Cross’s level of influence in crisis management, the people affected by such events also expect the Red Cross to provide valuable information that can help them deal with situation.

The Void:

There’s been a steady increase in the number of regular internet users within the last decade. Recent estimates show that around 77.4% of the total population of North America and 26.2% of the rest of the world are regularly online. Online searches and social networking are among the most popular activities on the web. Therefore, it is important to have an active presence in some of the world’s popular social networks.


The following are just a few of the ways in which organizations like the Red Cross can use social media achieve some of its goals:

1. Communicate information about critical events and emergencies (such tornado warnings, floods, tsnuamis etc) to the public.

2. Communicate information about resources (e.g. triage stations, food banks, community shelters, and so on) that are available to victims of crises situations.

3. Coordinate fundraising and goodwill donations to aid relief efforts

4. Explain ways to prepare for the emergencies before they happen

5. Communicate information about blood drives


By default, any social media program will include facebook, twitter, and the Red Cross’s blog. This is because facebook and twitter are the world’s most popular social networking sites and the organization’s blog serves as a central hub for receiving detailed content about the organization or other important information.

Other sites such as Youtube may also be useful.


Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site. When people “like” a facebook page it serves as a recommendation to others in their social network. For the Red Cross, this allows for greater visibility for local chapters so that people know where to go find information about their specific regions.


Twitter is the world’s second most popular social networking site. For many people, twitter is the site that is most difficult to understand.

Twitter is a type of short messaging system that posts information to the internet. In short, it’s like a text message to the world. When you send a tweet, it appears in the timeline of the people who are following you. Likewise, you can receive tweets from total strangers as well as people that you follow. In the event that an emergency such as tornado were to occur, the Red Cross can send out a quick short message to its followers letting them know about the situation and warning them to find safety. In the same way, people online can send quick messages to the Red Cross to let us know about such events so that we can begin to prepare and gather resources to help manage the situation.


Blogs are important because we can put up detailed information that’s a little more permanent that what you would find on facebook and twitter. Twitter, and facebook to some degree, relies heavily on short messages that are processed in real time. This means that the most recent information appears at top of the web page. Because of this, they are not the best for posting lengthy information such as instruction on how to find a shelter after a storm.

Blogs tend to be updated a little less frequently and they allow for greater flexibility of information. This makes them perfect for posting information in the right amount of detail so that there is less confusion about where resources are located and how victims can best manage themselves.


Youtube is the world’s most popular video hosting site as well as the second largest search engine. It’s estimated that about 24 hours or footage is posted on youtube every minute. Youtube videos can be used to show the extent of the damage caused by critical events and instructions on how to properly perform procedures like CPR.



One response to “Social Media, Emergency Management and You

  1. Pingback: The Atlanta Red Cross is on the Social Web | Metro Atlanta Red Cross

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