Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The New 9-1-1: How the Red Cross Uses Social Media in Disaster Response

by Ryan Wilcox, volunteer contributor

When you need help, whom do you call? Do you use social media to tell your friends when you have a problem?

According to a study conducted by the American Red Cross in 2012, more Americans are using social media in emergencies than ever before. In fact, mobile apps and social media are tied as the fourth most popular source of information during a disaster.

A Milestone

In response to this shift in the public’s use of technology, Red Cross DFW partnered with Dell to open a Digital Operations Center in 2014. The first of its kind outside Washington D.C., the DigiDOC has improved our ability to listen, and respond quickly. It’s modeled after Dell’s state-of-the-art Social Media Listening Command Center, and employs Radian6, a social listening and management tool.

In honor of the anniversary, we hosted a collection of staff, volunteers and communications professionals from local businesses for a tour. As a volunteer myself, I found the presentation impressive. It offered an up close look at the social strategy of the Red Cross, as well as a behind-the-curtain view of the DigiDOC.

Mona Charif, VP of Marketing and Communications for Dell Services, was the keynote speaker. “It’s the new 9-1-1,” Charif said when discussing social media’s role in crisis situations.

In 2015, the expectation is to be able to post something on a personal social media account, and receive help quickly — 76% expect help to arrive within three hours. This new expectation has led to a shift in the way relief agencies respond to disasters.

Social Strategy and Impact

Anita Foster, Regional Chief Communications Officer for Red Cross North Texas region, led the group up to the DigiDOC to conclude the tour. It is a mix of HD displays, maps and social media analytics; and provides a detailed look at all social media activity related to weather events. The American Red Cross gets over 4,000 mentions per day, and the DigiDOC helps our digital team stay on top of it all.

It’s an amazing time to be a volunteer. You can be an advocate, and make a measurable difference, using only your smartphone.

We use digital volunteers, or #DigiVols, to monitor and respond to requests for help, and information. Our team provides action steps you can use to get help quickly. We also thank our supporters, because even a donation of a pint of blood saves three lives. It all makes a difference.

Here's an example of this strategy in action:

We’re excited about the new ways social media is being used in disaster response. Have you received help from the Red Cross on social media?

Tell us about it in the comments, or on Twitter @RedCrossDFW.

Be a #RedCrosser

You can help the digital team fulfill our mission.

Do you think you would be a good digital volunteer? Our digital volunteers play a key role in disaster response, listening to social media to provide helpful information, or just a simple thank you. Go to RedCross.org/DFW to get started.

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