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10 inspiring social media case studies in disaster response

Posted on September 11, 2017 by Rob Petersen

social media case studies in disaster response

Social media case studies in disaster response show social media as a vital communication vehicle and database to government agencies and communities. And how they use both the networks and technology available in life saving ways.

Consider these facts for people who have survived a disaster:

  • 76% contact friends to make sure they are safe
  • 37% use info on social media to buy supplies and seek shelter
  • 35% post a request for help on a first responder’s Facebook page (Source: Emergency Management)

To view more facts, there is an infographic at the bottom of these social media case studies in disaster response.

Here are 10 inspiring social media case studies in disaster response.

  1. AMERICAN RED CROSS: The Red Cross has been at the forefront of social media case studies in disaster response using its social media accounts to serve communities in an emergency. BLOG: The Red Cross blog covers many topics related to the organization and its mission. During active disasters, the blog is the primary tool for sharing disaster-related information. FACEBOOK: The Red Cross’ Facebook page, which has more than 830,000+ Likes, serves as a community forum for providing information, sharing and discussing current issues, and learning how to take action and donate funds. FLICKR: The Red Cross’ extensive volunteer network operating in many locations provides a substantial database of photos of impacted communities and relief efforts. PINTEREST: The Red Cross uses Pinterest to give visitors the ability to pin Red Cross-related images to their own pinboards and share information through social media platforms.
  2. CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, HURRICANE ISSAC (2012): Early on, reports indicated that Florida would be in the storm’s path during the same week as the scheduled Republican National Convention. As the storm changed its path and headed toward New Orleans, official organizations such as the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service, FEMA, and the City of New Orleans used #Isaac and #NOLA consistently on social media networks to clarify alerts and warnings. The New Orleans mayor’s Twitter account was used to respond directly to community members’ Twitter messages and to correct misinformation. Community members posted eyewitness videos and photos of damages and reported utility outages, flooding locations, and road closures. FEMA and the City of New Orleans used this information to plan their response efforts.
  3. CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO: The city uses a text-based notification system, AlertSF, and encourages its Twitter followers to sign up for those alerts and AlertSF subscribers to use Twitter. More information is pushed onto Twitter, such as traffic and weather details. AlertSF is used solely for emergencies because officials do not want to clutter people’s cell phones with messages, Dudgeon said. The city also uses an outdoor public warning system.
  4. FEMA APP: With hurricane season continuing through November 30, the FEMA app is an essential tool to help your family weather the storm, nationwide. Receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States. Learn what to do before, during and after emergencies with safety tips. This is a free app.
  5. MAKE AMERICA SAFER THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITY: The Make America Safer through Social Media community, led by Hal Grieb of Plano, is collecting the best practices of the different social media tools available, DHS’ Vazquez said.Members of the network can engage in specific forums, contribute to blogs and wikis, post documents, share calendars, and bookmark content from the Internet. Members also have profiles that give details about their accreditations, association memberships, credentials, training, and areas of interest related to job activities, such as social media. “They have a level of trust that we, the government, can verify that the people there are also first responders and have a need to know information” related to emergency management, Vazquez said.“In many ways, it gives [first responders] a social collaboration tool similar to Facebook and LinkedIn,” he said, “but the difference is that this is a controlled environment.”
  6. PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, 2010 EARTHQUAKE (2010): After the Haiti earthquake, hundreds of volunteers around the world, dubbed in the media as “digital humanitarians.” As part of the effort, the volunteers first completed the digital mapping of the country using satellite imagery. An open source interactive mapping solution called Ushahidi Platform was then used to map geotagged Twitter messages and other mappable content from hundreds of other online sources. Another successful venture during the Haiti crisis, the American Red Cross’ charity text message campaign, took advantage of smartphone and SMS messaging technology. The campaign raised more than $22 million for Haiti relief within only a few days of the earthquake, thereby demonstrating the power of mobile technology. The charity’s previous record for a text-based campaign was $400,000.
  7. QUEENLAND FLOODS (2010): Long lasting and intensive rainfalls over large areas of north eastern Australia during the wet season of 2010 led to large flooding in Queensland. Nearly seventy-eight per cent of the state of Queensland had been declared a disaster zone in this example of social media case studies in disaster response. The QPS used Social Media streams during the 2011 flood disaster mostly to get information and warnings out to their following community and the public. They wanted to act as a centralised clearing house for disaster-related information. The need for verified informations two significant boosts of “Likes” on Facebook. The first boost occurred in December 2010 and doubled in number. About 14,000 people followed the QPS Facebook account by the end of December 2010. The second more powerful boost occurred after the flash flooding events of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley on the 10th of January 2011, and at the beginning of the flooding of Brisbane on the 11th January. “Likes” of the QPS Facebook page increased from 14,000 to over 160,000
  8. TORONTO POLlCE SERVICE: The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has taken an aggressive approach to social media. By mid-2012, it had trained 300 staff to use networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. One example of this strategy emerged when police were conducting a manhunt in a residential community. The suspect was regarded as armed and dangerous; as a precaution, some schools were locked down and homes secured. By following keywords and hashtags (a symbol used tomark keywords or topics), the TPS were able to monitor what the community was saying about the incident. In doing so, they were able to correct misinformation, dispel rumors and provide assurance that police were on the scene.
  9. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: The U.S. Geological Survey is developing a prototype site that monitors Twitter feeds to provide scientists with real-time data about earthquakes in this example of social media case studies in disaster response. The goal of the Twitter Earthquake Detector effort is to demonstrate a way to rapidly detect earthquakes and provide an initial damage assessment. TED taps into the Twitter API and searches for keywords such as “earthquake.” It then pulls and aggregates the information, including photographs, to give USGS scientists a map based on the number of tweets coming from a geographic area. That information is useful because there is a time lag between an earthquake and its official verification.
  10. VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (VDEM): Launched an emergency management system — the Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response — that has transformed how it prepares for emergencies and responds to disasters. VIPER is a geospatial information system-based enterprise platform that integrates with numerous information systems and links with approximately 250 data feeds. It supplies a Web-based common operating picture and numerous analysis tools. Emergency commanders; first responders; and police, fire and government officials can tap into a single information resource to gain an accurate understanding of events.

Do these case studies convince you of the value of social media in disaster response. To help your understanding, here is an infographic of the ways that it is used.

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