As Hurricane Irene nears, Americans turn to social networks

American Red Cross says social sites 'integral' to disaster response

After an earthquake rattled the East Coast and now a hurricane is roaring toward land, it's becoming increasingly clear that social networks are a key part of our disaster response.

The American Red Cross reported today that people are more frequently using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, along with mobile devices and online news outlets, to monitor storm tracks, seek help and spread news about their own conditions.

"Social media is becoming an integral part of disaster response," Wendy Harman, director of social strategy for the American Red Cross, said in a written statement. "During the record-breaking 2011 spring storm season, people across America alerted the Red Cross to their needs via Facebook. We also used Twitter to connect to thousands of people seeking comfort and safety information to help get them through the darkest hours of the storms."

Just this week, social sites instantly lit up with activity as an earthquake shook the East Coast from Georgia to Maine. Before information about the quake hit even online news sites, people were reporting the tremors on Twitter and posting updates on Facebook.

People also were quick to take to Facebook and Twitter after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan this past March. For instance, Online Social Media, a company that tracks social networks, reported that an hour after the quake hit Japan, Twitter users were posting 1,200 tweets every minute.

And people dealing with the wreckage left behind by a series of tornadoes in the U.S. South this spring turned to Facebook to help victims find things they'd lost in the storms.

In a Red Cross survey of 2,047 people conducted both online and over the telephone, 80% of the general population and 69% of those surveyed online said national emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social networks to respond promptly.

And those first-responders better be listening because 39% of online users said they would expect help to arrive in less than an hour after posting a plea for help online.

The Red Cross also noted that a third of online users said they would use social sites to let loved ones know they are safe.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessocial networkingtwitterinternetFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?