In an online survey of 1,058 people released this week, the Red Cross found that people are increasingly using social media in emergencies, and agencies such as police and fire departments are using it to issue warnings. But most are not ready to respond to electronic distress calls. Ninety percent of first-responders said they don’t have the staffing to monitor incoming messages and respond rapidly.
On Thursday, the Red Cross will lead a discussion at its headquarters in downtown Washington with emergency-response leaders, technology experts and at least one social media swami to try to sort through the challenges of coordinating response to floods of real-time information. “We’ll have 100 people live-blogging in the [Hall of Service], in the same place where people were rolling bandages during the first world war,” said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive of the Red Cross.
Some 70 percent of those responding to the Red Cross survey said emergency agencies should be monitoring social media.