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The Importance of Social Media Before & After Disasters

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The Importance of Social Media Before & After Disasters

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The Importance of Social Media Before & After Disasters by @vm_solutions #DisasterRelief #socialmedia
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 2:45pm
When the east coast felt its most powerful earthquake in nearly 70 years earlier this month, many heard about it first on Twitter, then experienced the physical effects. When the coast was impacted again by Tropical Storm Irene, many of us turned to our Facebook feeds and Twitter streams to stay informed of its impact.
During a time of crisis, individuals look to social media as a means to communicate with one another – sending photos of damage, checking the safety of friends and family or passing along news and updates about the disaster’s effects. But people also look to social media channels for information from government agencies and companies.
According to a recent study by the American Red Cross, citizens use these tools not only for personal interactions, but they also expect disaster response officials to listen and react. Of the general population, 80 percent expect national emergency response organizations to monitor websites and social media sites to respond to requests. And 35 percent would expect help to arrive in less than one hour if they post a request for help on a social media site.
There is no doubt that social media is becoming an important part of any organization’s disaster preparedness toolkit. The American Red Cross has an entire social media team devoted to monitoring disasters and sharing resources to help them prepare and react to disasters. The organization is even recruiting digital volunteers to help monitor the landscape and interact with individuals looking for information online.
If you’re a company, be aware of how your employees and customers use social media and determine how to respond during a disaster. Get trained on how to handle emergency situations, and have a plan in place for both offline and online activity. And finally, when the disaster has passed, encourage employees to get involved in relief efforts in local communities (check out the Disaster Relief Map on for disaster-specific opportunities).
About VolunteerMatch
VolunteerMatch is a national nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities by helping great people and great causes to connect. Our award-winning online service,, makes it easy to find a way to make a difference by location, expertise, or availability. VolunteerMatch provides many of the nation's most recognized businesses, campuses and organizations with Web-based solutions to facilitate and track volunteer engagement at local and national levels. As the #1 ranking for "volunteer" on Google and Yahoo!, the VolunteerMatch network regularly welcomes more than 190,000 visitors each week and has become the preferred volunteer recruiting service for tens of thousands of participating nonprofits across the country.


Casey Brennan