The Use of Social Media in Disaster Response

In a world of increasing interconnectedness between individuals and companies across the globe, social media continues to evolve and play a larger role in day-to-day life. In her article on social media’s role in disaster response, author Amy Sample Ward discusses why individuals turn to social media in times of crisis and why real-time communication, especially during times of crisis, is the wave of the future. According to Ward, there are three core reasons: bandwidth, response and power, which equates to reach, action and impact.

In the article, Ward extensively examines a recent disaster where social media played a large role in communications directly following the crisis: the Haiti earthquake. “Volunteers stepped up to translate text messages, people who have never visited Haiti or knew anyone there started tagging photos to find missing persons,” Ward said. “It’s incredibly important for organizations and responders to remember that just as those in need turn to the network for help, you can also turn to the network to help you respond.”

Response during the Haiti crisis saw relief teams utilizing Short Message Service (SMS) and the Web to deliver status reports and area mapping, as well as creating social media platforms — such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — to ask for donations and fundraising for the victims and tell the stories of those in need. One such group launched a mobile application that allowed users to volunteer to help via their phone.

According to Ward, “As organizations, responders, and service providers prepare for disaster response and create strategies to continue improving, remember that we continue to increase the level to which the global community of citizens feels embedded and integral to local support.”

In her article, Ward also assessed the costs and benefits of using social media in emergency response. Things to keep in mind include a constantly transforming communication medium within various social media avenues, as well as having a knowledge base surrounding social media.

For more insights into the use of social media during times of disaster and crisis, read the full article: