Since social media entered our lives, it’s changed the way we communicate, and there are 3.3 billion social media users worldwide as of July 2018. That’s a LOT of people using networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more, to engage with content and connect with those in their network.
During widespread disasters (think hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires), damaged phone lines or lack of power impacts communication services, which hinders people’s ability to contact emergency services. This puts pressure on mobile networks as people not only rely heavily on first responders to help them with a range of potential scenarios, but they’re also trying to reach family and friends to check on them following the disaster.
Social Media in an Emergency
While we use social media daily for information sharing and gathering, and a way to communicate with others, what about in an emergency? Even in an widespread disaster, the internet remains the most reliable communication channel, and that’s what makes social media a great complementary emergency communications tool for both Emergency Management teams and the public. Here’s how and why:
- Widely used and accessible networks: Emergency Management Teams can broadcast important safety information, correct misinformation, and build situational awareness on a large scale to reach as many people as possible.
- Support of relief efforts: While there are many organizations, like the Red Cross, set up to provide immediate relief to areas and individuals impacted by a disaster, they often need financial or volunteer support, and social media can be a great way to encourage people to help however they can, wherever they are.
- Providing key information: Social media enables more people to share key information like where immediate assistance is needed or where supplies can be sourced to support teams on the ground or emergency shelters.
- Personal safety updates: Social media provides a way for families to stay informed about their loved ones’ status(es). With the advent of services like Facebook’s Safety Check, individuals can post their status publicly and proactively, which can in turn help relief efforts and the flow of information.
Social media has become such a useful tool in emergencies, that the Department of Homeland Security produced a report about Innovative Uses of Social Media in Emergency Management.
Social Media is Part of a Complete Toolkit
However, it should be said that social media shouldn’t be the only tool we use to stay informed and connected before, during, and after an emergency. It’s part of an overall toolkit, that should include:
- Connecting to emergency alert services from national and/or local organizations – the American Red Cross has mobile apps and the National Weather Service has Active Alerts. Here in Canada, the Alert Ready Emergency Alert System was launched to provide families with a way to receive information about emergencies as they happen, regardless of whether they’ve signed up for other alert services.
- Creating and sharing emergency plans for home, work, and school, and ensuring that your whole family reviews them regularly
- Putting together emergency kits for your home, office, and vehicles, and regularly checking them to replenish items that might have expired or been used
ePACT Network is the “LinkedIn For Emergencies”
And don’t forget that ePACT was developed as the “LinkedIn for emergencies” to help families and individuals navigate unexpected events, increase safety, and provide the best possible outcome in any crisis, large or small. ePACT was built to leverage the power of online networking, while following many of the positive principles of social media. This includes using the internet for communication and information sharing, while overcoming its gaps by addressing preparedness and response, connectivity, and critical data.
For families, ePACT acts as their single emergency and support network, allowing them to securely store their emergency information and build networks of relatives, friends and organizations who support them in a crisis. For organizations, ePACT provides best in class emergency preparedness and response capabilities, allowing them to connect with and better support their members. And for all users, access to information and communications before, during and after any emergency is available via web or mobile.
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