Can Social Media Help During Disasters? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Mike Allton
Mike Allton Internet Marketing Consultant, The Social Media Hat

Posted on June 5th 2013

Can Social Media Help During Disasters? [INFOGRAPHIC]
Can Social Media Help During Disasters?

Over the past 30 years, the United States has endured many natural disasters each year, including earthquakes, wildfires, storms, floods and extreme heat. The impact of these disasters is incredibly high, affecting over 800,000 people each and every year. And during the most severe circumstances, as homes are destroyed and families are separated, traditional lines of communication are typically blocked. Phone lines becomes damaged, electricity delivery is interrupted, and cell phone carriers are overwhelmed. As a result, and more and more people are turning to the Internet, and Social Media specifically, for both news and information during a crisis.

As a form of Disaster Response, Social Media is coming to the fore. According to the infograph below from Frankie Rendón, in a study by the Red Cross, 76% of respondents had used social media to determine whether or not a loved one was safe after a disaster, and an additional 25% had gone on to download a diaster-related app of some kind. 24% of respondents had actually been in a disaster and had used social media to let loved ones know they were safe.

Perhaps more stunning is that during the recent disasters that were included in these studies, a fifth of the survivors had used social media, websites or email to contact emergency responders, as opposed to calling 911, and 44% actually asked their friends and contacts online to get a hold of responders!

Not so many years ago, these people would have had no options at all.

And Americans expect that this will work. In fact, 80% of us believe that emergency respondents should and are monitoring social media and other Internet sources. Fortunately, they are. Both here in the U.S. and abroad.

During Hurricane Sandy, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) actually tweeted, "Phone lines may be congested during/after #Sandy. let loved ones know you're OK by sending a text or updating your social networks." And 23 Red Cross staffers monitored 2.5 million Sandy-related social media postings, and tagged 4,500 of those updates for officials to follow-up on, getting aid to those who needed it.

Hurricane Sandy is just one of several recent disasters mentioned in the infograph below, including 2011's deadly tornado season, Japan's tsunami on March 11, 2011, and Haiti's earthquake in 2010. The two non-U.S. disasters are included to demonstrate the global impact that social media is having on disaster response, and how people around the world unite behind a common cause whenever disaster strikes, no matter where it is.

 The new face of disaster response.

What do you think about the growing role of social media in disasters? Do you think it's helpful that so much news and information is being disseminated in this way, or do you fear the inevitable inaccuracies and outright scams that crop up? Have you ever used social media during a disaster, either as a victim or as someone looking for information or ways to help?

Infograph credit to USF's Online MPA at:
Red Cross monitoring image courtesy of phoenixar, Flickr.

Mike Allton

Mike Allton

Internet Marketing Consultant, The Social Media Hat

I love to help small businesses and organizations that are interested in using the Internet more effectively. I provide a comprehensive set of consulting services, which include Social Media, Blogging, website development, SEO and Internet marketing.

I started my own website design firm in 2007 when I moved to St. Louis. Though I had been designing websites for years, it was always side jobs and part time gigs until I started my own firm. I now provide professional web development and Internet consulting full time.

For most clients and projects, we start with a new website. The new site is based on the Drupal Content Management System (CMS) platform so that the client may log into their site and add or edit content any time they need to. Each CMS includes a built-in Blog and other content types like FAQs and Testimonials. The CMS also includes a full compliment of SEO and Social Media integration options so that every time they create a new blog entry, that post is automatically shared with search engines like Google and Bing, and can be easily posted to social networks like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Once we have a great new website in place, I provide my business clients with ongoing marketing advice and assistance. I can tell them exactly what they need to do, or just do it for them, depending on how involved they wish to be. These ongoing activities can include blogging, creating and updating social network profiles, interacting with followers and readers, and managing online advertising campaigns.

I am the editor at The Social Media Hat ( where I regularly share articles discussing Social Media, SEO, Blogging, Writing, Internet Marketing and Business Technology.

My goal is to ensure that businesses are able to leverage the power and connectivity of the Internet to promote and grow their business. How can I help you with your own business today?

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Posted on December 1st 2014 at 10:19AM

We aren't able to imagine the day that social media plays an important role under the situation of disasters, like 10 or 15 years ago. However, as the article mentioned above, this medium has already being useful when disasters happened not only in America but also in Japan and Haiti. In the case of Japan, when The Great East Japan Earthquake attacked, I heard lots of voices that we were saved by social media as a means from getting information to informing cricis to others.