There are many aspects of disaster response. From shelter operations including caseworkers, driving a feeding truck, and managing the distribution of clean up supplies, all the way up to the operation headquarters. There is one thing that is connected to, and connects, everything: Communication.
Currently, there are more than 1000 volunteers who have been assigned to the operation in Texas. Those are boots on the ground volunteers as well as digital volunteers. Digital Operations is nothing new for Red Cross. In fact, Digital Volunteers, or as we call them, DigiVols, have been around since 2011 and the value they add to an operation is integral to situational awareness as well as connecting people to valuable information and even emotional support.
In each phase of a disaster there are conversations that begin online. These match the conversations happening in the physical space starting with preparedness, and then moving to response and lastly, recovery.
When sharing information with the online community, DigiVols are trained experts in getting out the right messages. Whether it is sharing the link to download the free Red Cross tornado app or tips about where current shelters are open, these messages are being seen and people are taking action.
The value of the digital operation can be quantified through numbers. During the response to storms and floods in Texas we measured several things to see how our online communication was being received in the digital space. Some of the important things we look at are how many people take action with the information we share, which many times is looked at under the broad umbrella of “Engagement.”
In just one week @RedCrossDFW saw an average of 23.3k Impressions per day. With an average of 60 people taking action each day to click the links, they were able to access valuable and life-saving information.
One of the most recent examples, showing the value of social media during disaster, is this connection that happened between a deaf family and our casework/recovery team. Digital Volunteers are connecting much needed resources to a family whose only connection to help was through the use of written word.
The digital space continues to evolve, becoming more important and valuable with each passing day. With each new disaster that comes our way, the Red Cross will be here, physically and digitally, providing hope and help to those affected by disaster.