The role of social media in spreading the latest breaking news about an emerging disaster or crisis is well documented. We have seen it with the plane crash in the Hudson river in New York where the news was broken on Twitter via an iPhone and also the monitoring, reporting and updating of the civil rights abuses when the Iranian elections were being held.
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The Red Cross recently conducted an online survey to assess the role and importance of the use of social media in disasters and emergencies and here are some of their findings.
The first part of the survey established the general level of use of social media in the community
- Nearly 3 in 4 participate in at least one online community or social network.
- Respondents with children in the household are more likely to use social media (81 percent vs. 67 percent for those without children in the household).
- College graduates are more likely to use social media (78 percent vs. 67 percent for those with some college or less).
- 89% of respondents aged 18‐34 use online communities or social networks compared to 65% of those aged 35 and older.
- The majority (82 percent) participates in social media at least once a week, with nearly half participating every day or nearly every day
The second part was the potential use of social media in reporting disasters whether human or natural.
- One in six (16%) have used social media to get information about an emergency
- About half of respondents would sign up for emails, text alerts, or applications to receive any of the emergency information.
- About half of respondents would mention any of the emergencies or events on their social media channels.
- Facebook was the most commonly used channel for posting eyewitness information on an emergency or newsworthy event at 75% followed by blogs at 22% and Twitter 21%
- During an emergency, nearly half would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe.
- The vast majority would use Facebook to post information about their safety.
- More than two-thirds agree that response agencies should regularly monitor and respond to postings on their websites.
- Younger respondents (18-34) make more use of social media with 33% using social media to get news about an emergency compared to only 9% of those aged 35 and above
- Younger people are more likely to request help through social media or text messaging
- Younger respondents expect a faster response from social media requests for help
Now this where it gets interesting
In the survey three out of four would expect help to arrive within an hour which I think shows either a high level of trust in our emergency agencies or is it just a slight sign of developed world impatience.
How have you used social media during a disaster or emergency?