Natural disasters have been a part of human history since Noah. What has changed is how we get information about – and request help in the midst of – natural disasters. Thanks to digital media, we can get instantaneous reports about earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. from all over the world. But what about disaster that either touch closer to home or might directly affect our families and friends?
Social-Media services like Twitter, texting, and Facebook have proven to be great ways to raise money and supplies to deal with the aftermaths of these events, asoften . But a recent survey from The demonstrates how people in the midst of these disasters are turning to these services to get updates on the event and to give updates about their own situations.
Perhaps the terrible earthquake and tsunami will be seen as the stress/test case for social media in the throes of such a calamity. A great summation (posted just three days after the quake) of the use of SM in and concerning Japan can be found here.
Yet the Red Cross was already exploring the ways people might expect to use social media to deal with disaster and to get information about loved ones caught up in it. Some of the findings of the 2010 survey will not be surprising to our regular readers. For example: those below age 34 are almost twice as likely to turn to social media to appeal for help. (Forty-four percent of those 34 and younger are likely to send a direct message via Twitter to a response agency compared to 23% of those 35 and older, to take one example.)
What might be surprising, though, is that only 28% of the total pool of 1,058 respondents would use Twitter at all, compared to 52% who would send text messages to an emergency-response agency or reach out to others to get them help from that response agency.
By far the most ‘popular’ social-media go-to platform in an emergency is Facebook. Given that fact, 69% of all respondents across all ages argued that agencies should continually monitor their websites and SM platforms for appeals for aid. The use of social media to contact life-saving services also seemed to spur the expectations of a quick response. A whopping 85% of younger respondents believed that postings on social-media sites should bring about a practical response within one hour. They expect someone to be ‘listening’.
Next week, we will look at a few applications that can help smartphone users in the midst of disasters, as well as how BGE used social media to deal with the tens of thousands of power outages that followed Hurricane Irene earlier this month. Until then, be safe: stay connected.