Friday, October 21, 2011

Tips for using social media in times of emergency

Facebook. Twitter. Texting. Social media has increasingly become a part of everyday life for many. But these tools can also be important during emergencies, from natural disasters to emergencies at home.

During a crisis, you can reach a lot of contacts and emergency providers by tweeting or posting on Facebook. You can keep them updated about how you’re doing and what you need. This is especially important if you can’t get to a phone, or if your phone lines are down or overloaded, but wireless still works as can happen during a disaster. Or maybe you are by a computer but can’t physically get to the phone, as happened to one man with muscular dystrophy during a house fire. He asked a fellow online gamer to call 9-1-1 on his behalf.

The communication can also go both ways. Relief workers can use social media to provide real-time updates on their work and local conditions or to provide advice, like how to care for your pets during a crisis or whether you should shelter in place.

Here are a few other ways to consider using social media to get help in an emergency:

• You can get emergency updates such as text messages if you “like” FEMA or your local emergency management agency on Facebook.
• If you text FOLLOW FEMA, or your local agency, to Twitter at 40404, you can get text message updates from anyone you’re following without a Twitter account.

• You can use GoogleMaps to create and share an evacuation route and meeting place with family and loved ones.
By uploading photos or videos of the emergency, you can affect the response. As Macon Phillips, director of new media at the White House and volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, said during a meeting of the America Red Cross, “One person can take a photo. One person can post a message…and it changes all our understanding of a situation immediately.”

And, of course, you should subscribe to the Get Ready Blog, Twitter and podcasts for ongoing preparedness tips.

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