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Web Users Turning to Social Media During Disasters: Survey


24 August 2010 at 10:21 am
Staff Reporter
A new study carried out by the American Red Cross has found that many web users would seek help through social media in an emergency – and they expect emergency service responders to be listening.


Staff Reporter | 24 August 2010 at 10:21 am


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Web Users Turning to Social Media During Disasters: Survey
24 August 2010 at 10:21 am

A new study carried out by the American Red Cross has found that many web users would seek help through social media in an emergency – and they expect emergency service responders to be listening.

The survey of 1,058 regular internet users found that more than two-thirds (69%) agree that response agencies should regularly monitor and respond to postings on their websites and social media sites.

75% of people surveyed expected that if they were to post a request for emergency help to a social media website, the help would arrive within an hour.

The survey shows that social media can be a useful tool for communicating with the general public during an emergency. About half of respondents would sign up for emails, text alerts, or applications to receive emergency information, ranging from road closures, through to location of medical services and evacuation routes. Around half of people also said they would mention an emergency on their social media channels.

If web users knew of someone else who needed help, 44 percent said they would ask other people in their social network to contact authorities, 35 percent would post a request for help on a response agency’s Facebook page and 28 percent would send a direct message to emergency personel via Twitter.

American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern says the social web is creating a fundamental shift in disaster response – one that will ask emergency managers, government agencies and aid organisations to mix-time honoured expertise with real time input from the public.

Other findings include:

One in six (16%) of respondents have used social media to get information about an emergency.

Facebook was the most commonly used channel for posting eyewitness information on an emergency or newsworthy event. Of the 18% of social media users who has posted information of photos about an emergency or newsworthy to a social media site, 75% said they had used Facebook for this purpose.

If the US emergency telephone number, 911 was busy, one in five indicated they would try to contact emergency personel through a digitial means, such as e-mail, websites or social media.

Nearly half of respondents said that during an emergency, they would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe.

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