Social Media and Emergencies

Social Media and Emergencies

Last year about this time we wrote about the then-new hurricane alert app from the Red Cross. In just a year, so much has changed. Social media has become an incredibly valuable tool for emergency management, personal safety and communication.

Even though major catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks on September 11th aren’t that far behind us, technology has evolved at such lighting speed that we can’t help but wonder how many lives could have been saved or how much suffering alleviated if we had the social media technology then that we have now. Sure, social media can be a time-drain but it can also be one of the most valuable tools in your emergency preparedness plan. It’s worth paying attention to what’s available even if you just use it for disaster planning.

Why You Need Facebook

If you aren’t already connected to the important people in your life via Facebook, do it today. Mobile phone apps often have an “I’m Safe” button that make it easy for you to spread the word that you’re okay without having to make a dozen phone calls. And, sending data is usually possible even when phone lines are jammed or down. Even if you don’t have a smartphone you would be able to access your page from a public computer or by borrowing someone else’s smartphone to post a message on your own wall.

Emergency Apps: Red Cross Leads the Way

The Red Cross still leads the way with their portfolio of emergency mobile apps and they may be all you need:

  • The Tornado App sends warning alerts, alarms and all-clear notifications to your mobile device so you can stay on top of dangerous situations no matter where you are. It also has preparation tips, a tool kit that includes a strobe light so emergency workers can find you, a shelter map, pre-loaded content that you can use even if cell towers are down, and much more.
  • The Hurricane App also has audible alerts, an I’m Safe button for social media, a toolkit, preparation tips and real-time NOAA-based weather information.
  • The Shelter App helps you find the nearest shelter, whether it’s FEMA, Red Cross, non-profit or faith-based, this list is updated every 30 minutes.
  • The First Aid App is integrated with 911 and pre-loads content onto your device so you have first aid information even if cell towers are down. We like this one because it has animated videos that teach the basics and interactive quizzes so you can see what you’ve learned. Kids like the videos and quizzes so when they’re bored and want to play with the phone, we like to pull up this app.

Other Emergency Apps

  • FEMA has an app that has handy lists to help you prepare for an emergency, a real-time list of shelters and suggestions for what to include in your emergency kit.
  • NOAA has an app that lets you stay on top of the weather in real-time.
  • wikiHow: How To and DIY Survival Kit has a lengthy and occasionally amusing list of how to survive anything, including an angry camel attack.
  • RepairPal can teach you how to fix a roadside car breakdown.
  • PetFirstAid is an incredibly informative app that will tell you what’s normal behavior, what to do if you’re bitten or stung, what to do in emergency situations and the fundamentals of basic animal first aid.

Don’t forget that many of these apps, including Facebook, also allow you to feed localized information to emergency officials as well. If you find yourself in a developing situation, the more information you can provide, the better.

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