In emergencies, Americans turn to social media for info

When disasters occur, Americans turn to social media, online news outlets and mobile technology in general to seek and share information, according to the American Red Cross.

Perhaps the next Public Service Announcements should be through Twitter.

A pair of new surveys from the American Red Cross conclude that when disasters occur, Americans turn to social media, online news outlets and mobile technology in general to seek and share information.

In the surveys, one conducted by telephone and a second conducted online, the vast majority of respondents said they believe response organizations should be monitoring social media during disasters and responding to queries through these channels.

"During the record-breaking 2011 spring storm season, people across America alerted the Red Cross to their needs via Facebook," said American Red Cross social strategy director Wendy Harman in a statement. "We also used Twitter to connect [with] thousands of people seeking comfort and safety information."

Some highlights from the surveys:

  • TV and local radio remain the kings of emergency information, but the Internet follows closely behind, with 18 percent of participants using Facebook for the purpose.
  • There's no single channel of preference: Facebook, Twitter, SMS/text messages, online news sites and smartphone apps were all used.
  • Still, the general population "tended to be more reliant on traditional media and non-social websites" in times of emergency, turning to local news outlets, government agencies or utility companies.
  • 24 percent of the general population said they would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe.
  • 80 percent of the general population believe that national emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social media sites in order to respond promptly.
  • Women and households with children are more likely to use social media channels.
  • For those who said they would post a request for help through social media, 35 percent of the general population said they would expect help to arrive in less than one hour.

The surveys polled 1,011 telephone respondents (representing the general population) and 1,046 online respondents (selected from those interested in completing online surveys).

The good news? Organizations can now confirm that a large portion of constituents are using online services for emergency purposes. The bad? It takes a lot of resources to address this fragmented, no longer "broadcast" landscape.

Here's the entire report:

SURVEY DATA: Social Media in Emergencies 2011

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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