Tracking a #tornado with Twitter?

Summary:The Red Cross may not be able to prevent tornadoes, but with the help of private sector technology, it soon will be reading the clouds.

The Red Cross may not be able to prevent tornadoes, but with the help of private sector technology, it soon will be reading the clouds.

On Wednesday, the American Red Cross announced the creation of the Social Media Monitoring Center in Washington, D.C. Leveraging Dell technology, the Center will use data from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to find disaster victims, spot trends, and pass on information.

The creation of the Social Media Monitoring Center is far from the first time social media has been used to assist victims of a disaster. When a category five tornado whipped through Joplin, Mo., last spring, residents turned to Facebook as an organizing tool. The page, "Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery," enables its 171,000 followers to share news, photographs, and information. According to 2011 Red Cross study, this precedent is far from rare. Twenty-four percent of Americans now use social media to make sure their family is safe in the event of an emergency.

The new Social Media Monitoring Center will allow the Red Cross to connect with these communities, said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross, in a press statement Wednesday:

“Our goal is to become a social liaison for people, families and communities to support one another before, during and after disasters.”

Dell, who has previous experience with social media monitoring, was a natural partner for the project. With the help of social media platform Radian6, Dell launched their own Social Media Command Center in 2010. This Command Center helps the company monitor its social profile across 22,000 topics.

“Through Dell’s Social Media Command Center, we’ve been able to innovate and improve how we support and engage our customers," said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell, "We’re excited to partner with the Red Cross to extend similar capabilities to their humanitarian relief efforts nationwide.”

[Fast Company]

Photo: Dell/Flickr

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York U... Full Bio

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