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Watching the Philippine Flood Response Online

We’ve been keeping an eye on all of the posts online about the severe flooding the Phillipines this week. The flooding is reported to be the “worst since 2009“.

The Philippine Red Cross is currently responding to these floods, helping to rescue people stranded by high waters. They are making prodigious use of Twitter to communicate what they are doing. Even here in our Digital Operations Center, we have been seeing a sharp increase in posts about flooding, since many people in the Philippines and across the world were posting on social platforms about the floods in English.

The amazing photo above of the amphibian rescue vehicles was originally shared on the Facebook page belonging to Dick Gordon, the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. It made the rounds online as it received thousands of shares and helped reassure people that the Red Cross was prepared and ready to help from the beginning of the floods.

I was fascinated by the way the Philippine Red Cross and the Philippine people were using Twitter to spread life saving information and to help coordinate rescues. Rescue and emergency response is NOT one of the services that we provide here at the American Red Cross; instead, we work closely with local emergency officials and first responders (such as firefighters) to provide support in the form of water, food, and other basic necessities. We don’t have amphibian rescue trucks, but we do have Emergency Response Vehicles that bring hot food to affected communities. Every Red Cross society has different services, but we all operate under the Seven Fundamental Principles to provide humanitarian services.

Even though we can’t send search and rescue crews to people, we still often see posts online that ask for help of some sort. Figuring out how to gather and sort these posts and take action where we can is a hard thing to do, but we are making progress. For us, a top priority is figuring out how people are talking about staying safe and the recovery process. Do they need a shelter to stay in? Food and water? Do they just need someone to talk to?

It is inspiring to see another Red Cross society jumping into action online during a time of terrible disaster to do what they do best. It also helps me take away ideas on how the American Red Cross can be more responsive and communicative about how people can be prepared, get help, and give help when disasters strike. When the next disaster strikes, we will be listening to what people are saying and responding directly to them – even just to offer something as simple as a digital hug.