American Red Cross Digital Ops Center: They are Listening

Post by: Kim Stephens

Some emergency managers are still struggling with understanding the value of social media. Even when talking with organizations that do have a presence, there is still some discomfort with  moving from purely pushing information to monitoring for information.  The idea that social media content coming from the public is not trust worthy, only full of rumors, and not valuable, seems to be an entrenched misconception.

The American Red Cross, on the other hand, has not only been a leader and innovator when it comes to using these tools to provide information to the public, but has also fully embraced the concept of listening via these platforms. This was on full display this week (March 7, 2012) when they unveiled their new Digital Operations Center at their Headquarters in Washington D.C. This “listening” center was donated by Dell Computers and Michael Dell proclaimed this as the “first ever instance of a [digital] monitoring center in the realm of humanitarian response.”

The equipment received a workout the week prior to the unveiling when tornadoes struck a wide swath of the mid-west.  Gail McGovern, the ARC President and CEO, stated that monitoring the social stream gave them actionable data. They were able to gain situational awareness regarding such things as announcements of volunteer opportunities as well as people’s immediate needs, including the need to find family members.  In other words, the new tools enabled ARC to quickly gather big picture data to understand what is happening on the ground. She discussed how quite a lot of the content on social platforms after a disaster is, what she termed, “Emotional data.” This, she stated, is quite actionable because ARC is then able to provide tips, comfort and information about where those individuals can find help, for example, directions to the nearest shelter.  “Providing emotional support is a big key.”

See this video below about the new digital ops center and tell me if this makes you reconsider whether or not your organization should be listening.

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4 responses to “American Red Cross Digital Ops Center: They are Listening

  1. This DOC is a great example of not “just giving” but listening to what people really think and need! This makes me once more proud, being a Red Cross volunteer. I am convinced, the DOC wil be also a big enrichment for SMEM.

  2. Thanks for the comment! Also, read Sara Estes Cohen’s post which summarizes the #smemchat about the new digital listening center. http://saraestescohen.com/2012/03/09/weekly-smemchat-summary-open-data-for-emergency-response/

  3. Great blog Kim. Hadn’t seen the video so thanks for sharing. /C

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