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Social Media At Its Best

Last week I shared with you a few pretty incredible service delivery numbers from the American Red Cross Disaster Services Program Review (fiscal year 2011). This week, I want to highlight for you how the American Red Cross is using technology – specifically social media – to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Or in other words, how the American Red Cross is using technology to further grow those already-impressive service delivery numbers.

How important is social media to emergency preparedness and response? Very.

In August of 2011, a survey conducted for the American Red Cross on potential social media usage during emergencies revealed that not only is social media already intertwined with communication and information management, it is also a critical piece of the preparedness and response puzzle.
According to those surveyed:
- Online news is the 3rd most popular source for emergency information
- 18% would use Facebook to get information about emergencies
- 24% would use social tools to tell others they’re safe
- 30% in metro areas and 20% in non-metro areas would sign up for emergency alerts
- 80% expect emergency responders to monitor social sites
- 20% would try an online channel to get help if unable to reach EMS

The American Red Cross understands the importance of utilizing and has capitalized on the technological tools at its disposal in order to bring disaster response into the 21st century. Using social media the Red Cross can deliver key messages – via website, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed – about what’s coming, where to go, what to do, and what to expect next – in real time.

- Available since February 2011, the American Red Cross Shelter View Application for the iPhone maps the location of nearby shelters while displaying the shelters’ current capacities and populations. As of January 2012, this app had been downloaded more than 31,000 times.
- The American Red Cross dynamic shelter map is updated every 30 minutes by the national shelter system and allows visitors to the site to search for open Red Cross shelters by address, city, state, and zip code.
- The Red Cross Safe & Well website allows those affected by disaster to register as safe, and now that the website has been integrated with Facebook and Twitter it can automatically update statuses on both sites.

Additionally, the American Red Cross was one of the first 50 nonprofit organizations to join Twitter, the American Red Cross Facebook page has more than 418,000 likes (as of February 2012), and the American Red Cross Twitter account has more than 647,000 followers (as of February 2012).

Said Suzy DeFrancis, American Red Cross Chief Public Affairs Officer, “Technology is a tool, not an end in itself. Our goal is to help alleviate human suffering and ensure that the country is as prepared as possible to respond to any disaster. We will use technology to do that, but it is not about the technology, it is about the people we serve.”

Couldn’t have said it better.

Join us on Facebook here.
Follow us on Twitter here.
Read more about the Shelter View Application for the iPhone here.
View the Dynamic Shelter Map here.
Visit the Safe & Well website here.

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