Using Social Media to inform and prepare the public during a disaster

ImageIn today’s technology-savvy age, our generation has become accustomed to having access to breaking news as soon as it happens.  We no longer have to wait to find out information when a disaster strikes from traditional media outlets such as local television news shows and newspapers.

Rather, through various social media outlets, we are fortunate enough to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how within minutes after a disaster strikes.  It is almost impossible not to know when an emergency situation has occurred given that most of us are already glued to our smartphones on a daily basis.

Just last night, our Red Cross SEPA Chapter communications team used Twitter to inform the public and local media outlets of our response to a serious water main break at 21st & Fitzwater in South Philadelphia.  SEPA Chapter staff and volunteers set up a reception center at Stanton School at 17th & Christian for those displaced by the water main break. Four displaced families and their pets took advantage of this reception center.

Over the course of the hours of our response, which went from about 11pm until 4am, Twitter served as a great communications tool between our communicators and reporters on-scene as well as media outlets’ assignment desks. It allowed us to update information about our response in real-time, and gave access to the local media to report these updates just as quickly.

In fact, the social media outlet really came through for us in this particular situation in that we were able to secure an interview with local news stations, by coordinating the interview over Twitter (see photo). NBC 10’s reporter Marisa Brahney tweeted Sara Smith, our communications specialist who was on location at the reception center, to find out where Red Cross was offering assistance and how to meet for an interview. Sara, in turn tweeted Marisa back and was able to arrange a meeting spot for an interview. ThImageis interview then aired within a couple hours of the meeting. In this instance, Twitter was a great help in networking with the media and keeping them updated regarding our whereabouts.

Earlier, twitter helped set up another interview between another of our team members and 6ABC’s Kenneth Moton. 

When one of our team members replaced another one, @RedCrossPhilly used twitter to notify its followers and the media of the change so they knew who to follow for reliable information.

(I encourage you to check out SEPA Chapter’s Twitter feed and the hashtag #southphillywatermainbreak to see all the tweets from overnight for yourself and how this worked.)

This situation is a perfect example of why I view Twitter as a very effective value chain.  The local media news stations’ followers, as well as Red Cross’ followers, were able to stay informed in the moment via Twitter.  In turn, those two groups of followers “re-tweeted” about our efforts to their followers, enabling even more people to receive up-to-the-moment updates about the water main break and response efforts.

By: Lana Pizzo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: