Tag Archives: American Red Cross

5 Ways Social Media are used for Disaster Recovery

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

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Post by: Kim Stephens

Yesterday I posed the question:  Is the frequency of using social media in crises and disasters bringing new innovations, progress, and improvements to crisis communications? Today, I would like to highlight 5 ways that social media have contributed positively to the recovery process, particularly with regard to citizens helping themselves and others.

1. Social Media are used for on-line collaboration to aid those in need.

Citizens providing aid to those affected by a disaster is nothing new. People have donated time, goods, money, etc. to disaster survivors probably since we walked upright. What’s new is the ease in which collaboration can occur.  The Four-Mile-Fire Help forum/website (re Boulder CO wildfires) is a case in point. The Forum operates as a clearinghouse for those offering assistance and those needing assistance. Everything you can imagine is listed from insurance help, animal help, food help, free therapy sessions; but the most viewed item is “housing help”. By choosing that link you see a list of people and businesses who have houses to rent, or space in their homes. People who need a place to stay can post their needs there as well.

However, with regard to monetary donations, there are mixed results. One article, Haiti Disaster Relief: Evaluating the Impact of Social and Digital Media, written just one-month after the earthquake, concluded: “although the role of mobile giving has been widely covered, its true impact is difficult to understand. Perhaps it increased the total number of donations or gained donors from a younger, previously unreached audience. But the negative impact of mobile donations is the danger of possibly cannibalizing potential larger donations because it tends to operate on the very low donations level.”

But others articles refute the claim that it’s only about mobile giving.  The article How Social Good Has Revolutionized Philanthropy illustrates how social media is used not only for soliciting donations, but for building a community. “Social good can bring attention to a cause and the companies trying to solve it without blindly canvassing for donations (or “the ask”). One person they interviewed for that article explained that its not just about money, saying “I want to build a relationship with someone over the next couple of years.”

Similarly, another on-line collaboration tool came from the Facebook company when it created “Global Disaster Relief on Facebook“.  Their stated purpose:

“We want Disaster Relief on Facebook to serve as a collaborative resource for individuals, non-profits, governments and industry to raise awareness for those in need around the world. We’re inviting relief organizations to be part of this effort so they can further highlight their needs during times of crisis. Most importantly, we hope all of you will join us by becoming a fan of Disaster Relief on Facebook and by continuing to support relief efforts along with your friends.”

The page has over 500,000 fans and has links to 16 different non-profit organizations and is helpful for those looking for a valid organization to send a contribution (which brings up another, somewhat uglier social behavior: exploitation). Also, see the article about the American Red Cross for another great example of non-profit organizations using social media to build a community.

UPDATE: Sept. 22, Facebook has announced the launch of a new social network called “Jumo”, which is described as a social networking website for non-governmental organizations with the idea of building relationships with people who feel strongly for a cause.  Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, was interviewed on “Talk of the Nation” yesterday and explained his motivation for the new network:

“We have networks that make it easy to connect with friends, to find a good restaurant to go to dinner, to watch a movie instantly, yet there’s no network for the social sector,” says Hughes. “The more that people know about a cause or a problem, the more that they know about the people who are working to develop solutions or implement solutions, the more likely they are to be aware of it or support those solutions.”

2. Social Media facilitate expressions of gratitude. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=boulder+wildfire&iid=9697291″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9697291/wild-fire-burns-homes-near/wild-fire-burns-homes-near.jpg?size=500&imageId=9697291″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Expressing gratitude to public safety personnel is by no means confined to the social media world,  but it is interesting that a group formed on Facebook explicitly for this purpose after the Boulder, Colorado fire. Their page”Fourmile Heroes“is dedicated solely to thanking the response personnel. Their stated purpose is “…dedicated to expressing thanks and giving back to all responding heroes…that fought the devastating Fourmile Fire in Boulder, Colorado.” Through the page they organized a parade and mobilized citizens to show up at that event in order to honor the public safety personnel involved and also raise money for those in need. What is new here is not the “why” but the “how”.

3. Social media facilitate expressions of grief.

Although the examples above were related to the Fourmile fire in Colorado, I’d like to use an example of how social media can aid in recovery from an example closer to home. Recently a teenager (14) was killed in our community. Of course the kids who knew him, even those that didn’t, were overwhelmed  with grief.  Through social media they were able to post their comments on the deceased’s facebook page, watch old videos of him singing on YouTube, and organize themselves through forwarded text messages to wear his favorite color to school the first day back after his death. These same sorts of activities occur on a larger scale when an entire community is affected by a disaster, or when more than one person dies, as in the Virginia Tech Shooting incident. See the scholarly article: A Framework to Identify Best Practices: Social Media and Web 2.0 Technologies in the Emergency Domain by Connie White and Linda Plotnick. They call this “social convergence”.

4. Social media are used to share an individual’s experiences of the crisis or disaster.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=new+zealand+earthquake&iid=9703158″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9703158/earthquake-rocks-new/earthquake-rocks-new.jpg?size=500&imageId=9703158″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Sharing your experience after a disaster is cathartic. Social media appears to be filling this need. After the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake a facebook page was created with the title “I survived the Christchurch Earthquake“. The stated purpose of the group was simply “WOW”. More than thirteen thousand people “like” that page. It seems to just be a place that people can post their pictures.Their discussion page, however, does list some “useful websites for information”.

5. Social media are used to provide information after the mainstream media have left the story. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=bp+oil+spill&iid=9804410″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9804410/file-photo-health-advisory/file-photo-health-advisory.jpg?size=500&imageId=9804410″ width=”380″ height=”293″ /]Once the response phase of a disaster comes to an end, the mainstream media (and maybe even the government) declares the event over and leaves, sometimes well before the community has recovered, see Gulf Oil Well is Dead but Pain Will Remain. Blogs, facebook pages, and online community groups or forums are sometimes one of the few outlets for information for citizens: hundreds of tweets mentioning BP Oil Spill or Deepwater Horizon can still be found. Increasingly, local governments, and even the federal government are using social media to fill the void as well. The Deepwater Horizon federal response facebook page is still up and running (almost 38,000 people “like” their page–although some of the comments lead you to believe they don’t like it at all).

Related Articles

Social Media and Web 2.0 Standard Operating Procedures: Guidance Material

Since the use of social media and or Web 2.0 (we really need a better lexicon here) is so new, some organizations might not yet have standard operating procedures developed regarding either implementation or overall strategy. Some of those procedures may include: workflow, managing comments, managing content,  statements of purpose, measures of success/metrics, or even which new media to engage in.

However, if you are responsible for implementing new media and not sure where to start, I recommend the blog Social Media Governance which has put together a wonderful database of social or new media policies (currently 154 total). The list includes government/non-profit policies from the American Red Cross to Walker Art Center; but the list also includes policies from businesses, the healthcare industry, as well general guidelines and templates. You can search for a policy related to your industry with the handy pull-down menu. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=twitter+image&iid=5243202″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5243202/microblogging-site-twitter/microblogging-site-twitter.jpg?size=500&imageId=5243202″ width=”380″ height=”242″ /]

There are even policies from international agencies, for example there is a handy Social Media 101 guide from Australia. And although some of the information would not apply in the U.S. (e.g. government codes of conduct) there are a number of helpful tips that are universal.

The General Service Administration’s Social Media Handbook can also be found there and is quite useful, however, local governments might find information from “The County of Orange, California” more applicable.

Most policies will deal with pushing information, if you know of any organization that has policies regarding receiving info from the public through social media, please let me know.

I also want to highlight the recent GAO Report: Challenges in Federal Agencies’ Use of Web 2.0 Technologies, July 22, 2010. The report summary:

Federal agencies are using Web 2.0 technologies to enhance services and support their individual missions. Federal Web managers use these applications to connect to people in new ways. As of July 2010, we identified that 22 of 24 major federal agencies had a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

They then list the challenges federal agencies have faced regarding use of Web 2.0 technologies:

Privacy and security:

Agencies are faced with the challenges of determining how the Privacy Act of 1974, which provides certain protections to personally identifiable information, applies to information exchanged in the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites. …

Records management and freedom of information.

Web 2.0 technologies raise issues in the government’s ability to identify and preserve federal records.

The use of Web 2.0 technologies can also present challenges in appropriately responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests because there are significant complexities in determining whether agencies control Web 2.0-generated content, as understood within the context of FOIA.

Federal agencies have begun to identify some of the issues associated with Web 2.0 technologies and have taken steps to start addressing them. For example, the Office of Management and Budget recently issued guidance intended to (1) clarify when and how the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 applies to federal agency use of social media and Web-based interactive technologies; and (2) help federal agencies protect privacy when using third- party Web sites and applications.

Of course this was written for the federal government, however, some of the information is probably applicable to states and localities.

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Ready or not the public uses Social Media in crisis situations

A Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) ladder tr...

Image via Wikipedia

Post by: Kim Stephens

The article “Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service: Emergency Management & Social Media Evangelism” by Latonero, et.al, (May 2010) is an interesting case study about the use of social media in the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).  Brian Humphrey, the long-time PIO of LAFD, was the focus of the study since he has been the tip-of-the-spear with regards to the implementation social media in the response community: see this online interview with him on John Solomon’s blog.  The Latonero article is interesting not only because it discusses some of the advantages new media can provide to a response organization, but also because it presents the numerous challenges created by this type of communications medium.

Biggest advantage: “Bypassing mass media as traditional intermediaries.” The ability to engage the public in near real-time and provide them with another way to receive legitimate information directly from the Department became one of the key motivators for implementing this form of communication.

Biggest challenge: The ability to engage the public in near real-time. One quote  from Mr. Humphrey’s twitter feed illustrates the challenge: “270 voice mails and 2000+ non-spam emails expecting a reply. Dunno how or when I’ll get back to you all.”

This article leads to the question: Why engage the public through social media at all if it creates unreal expectations? One answer is that people are already using social media daily and will use it during crises, whether we like it or not. This article in today’s Washington Post “Twitter breaks story on Discovery Channel gunman James Lee” is a prime example: From the story

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=discovery+channel&iid=9640899″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9640899/gunman-takes-hostages/gunman-takes-hostages.jpg?size=500&imageId=9640899″ width=”234″ height=”259″ /]”The news of a gunman at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Silver Spring indeed traveled fast on Wednesday, but none of it came through radio, TV or newspaper Web sites, at least not at first. As it has with other breaking news events — the landing of a jet on the Hudson River in 2009, the 2008 massacre in Mumbai — the story unfolded first in hiccupping fits and starts on Twitter..”

At the American Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit this past Aug. 12, 2010, Heather Blanchard, one of the co-founders of Crisis Commons made the presentation: “Closing the Gap Between Public Expectation and Disaster Response Reality,  Call to Action: Finding Common Language for Cooperative Response.”  She made several interesting and compelling points regarding how the emergency management community could solve the conundrum of both engaging the public through social media and also handling the vast amount of information the new media provide.

How? Currently, in most response organizations, only the PIOs are responsible for social media in terms of both sending and receiving messages. This quote from the Washington Post story illustrates how much effort is involved in taking the raw information from Twitter, in this case, and then turning it into actionable intelligence.

But as rich as Wednesday’s Twitter feed was, it was merely a starting point for reporters. “The initial information may have come to us through these tools, but we have to apply the old-media skills of vetting and serving as a filter” for what’s accurate, said Allan Horlick, president and general manager of WUSA-TV. “We can’t let raw info to go out over air. The front end is new, but we still have to do our work on the back end.”

Ms. Blanchard pointed out that during large events PIOs could easily become overwhelmed, as demonstrated by Mr. Humphrey’s tweet. Instead, she recommended that response organizations think about who in their community could be trained as volunteers to assist with data collection, aggregation and vetting, for example: students from local universities or people from local technology companies.

With regards to organizational structure, she presented an EOC org chart with the concept of a  newly created “technology cluster”. The cluster would include

  • an analytic cell
  • GIS cell
  • open source info
  • ESF Liaisons

The analytics cell would indicate their data requirements but would not process data: the “Data Operations Center” (which could be manned by volunteers) would search, aggregate, and vet information and potentially provide that information in a visualization tool.

This is an interesting proposition. Read through her slides and let me know what you think.