As a key player, social media came, saw, and conquered disaster response, such that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks have all helped and eased the rescue and relief efforts in the midst of multiple disasters. In less than a decade, social platforms have altered the way people see and act in response to natural phenomenon, and the world as a whole.
Social networking sites have important roles as key sources of news and information in times of dire emergency.
To begin with, 76 percent use social media to contact friends and ensure their safety, 37 percent use the platform to purchase supplies and look for shelter, 24 percent inform loved ones on their current condition, and 18 percent gain relevant emergency info through Facebook.
In the midst of disasters, people frequently use social networks as a substitute to 911 as the primary source of emergency information or immediate assistance.
Moreover, 20 percent of disaster survivors directly contact emergency responders through social media, websites, or email, whereas 44 percent reach out to their online friends to contact the responders.
Apart from the 35 percent who directly post a help request on the Facebook account of a responder, one-third of those who ask for help expect help to arrive within an hour after the post.
Americans trust the social media accounts of emergency response agencies so much that 80 percent of those who seek help expect the responders to monitor and reply on social media platforms.
With all those things in mind, social media definitely has a proven track record in disaster response.
Memorable Moments of Disaster
During the tornado season, a Facebook page created for recovery in Joplin caught the attention and acquired 123,000 members just days after a devastating twister. The same page prepared and mobilized volunteers and helped in the search for survivors. It helped a Joplin hospital employee to find 1,100 missing hospital workers.
In March 11, 2011, Facebook kept track of 4.5 million status updates worldwide with the words “Japan,” “Tsunami,” and “Earthquake.” It accounted for 84 percent of total status updates that day. On Twitter, people sent 1,188 tweets per minute in the middle of the tsunami and the nuclear fallout.
From January 12 to January 14, 2010, people sent 2.3 million tweets with the words “Haiti” and “Red Cross” during the Haiti earthquake. Survivors of the catastrophe took to social networking sites to notify emergency disaster response teams about their basic needs. Lives were saved by people who tracked their accounts on social networking sites.
In the midst and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, mentions of the word “Hurricane Sandy” and “Frankenstein” on Facebook pulled of the roof and increased by one million percent. Moreover, 10 Sandy-related photos were posted on Instagram at one point during the natural calamity.
During times of adversity, social media helped raise funds and find survivors, such that it is increasingly turning into the most effective channel to manage disaster response and recovery.
Check out this infographic (click to enlarge) by the University of San Francisco Online MPA and take a good look at the growing role of social media as the new face of disaster response. See and know how these social networks already helped rescue and relief efforts of numerous catastrophes.