While I was in Washington, D.C. Thursday, I visited the American Red Cross‘ Disaster Response Center to learn more about the growing role of new media in the Red Cross’s response efforts during the Midwestern floods and tornadoes.
Wendy Harman and Claire Johnson of the Red Cross’ Social Media unit — which coordinates the organization’s online public affairs initiatives — kindly took a moment from their busy day to brief me on their work.
Social Media Unit members Wendy Harman (standing) and Claire Johnson (sitting) in the Red Cross’ Disaster Operations Center. Public affairs staffer Lesly Simmons is at the left.
Wendy and Claire developed and oversee the Red Cross’ “Online Newsroom” blog for “Central U.S. Floods and Tornadoes” which can be found at redcrossmidwestflooding.wordpress.com/. The Online Newsroom is full of constantly updated information on the unfolding emergency — current statistics, press releases, photos, audio and video — reported by a team of public affairs staffers spread throughout the flood areas. It is a terrific resource for reporters, emergency officials and the public.
The site also provides details on other Red Cross online sites – such as the Safe & Well List, which is a way for family members to communicate with each other during a disaster. There is also a Red Cross Flickr photo stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanredcross/ with pictures that newspapers and blogs can use, such as this one of a Red Cross volunteer in the knee-deep water in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In addition, there is the organization’s central blog, Red Cross Chat, which can be found at http://www.redcrosschat.org. These preparedness 2.0 initiatives are part of the Red Cross’ ramped up effort to integrate new communications technologies into its existing activities — and, while they’re at it, help update the organization’s public image for the 21st Century.
Staffers at American Red Cross Disaster Operations Center monitor Midwest floods.
Wendy told me that the Red Cross’ social media presence is ”still in its diapers” and will be evolving in the months to come. In fact, she says they are “open to new ideas” and welcome any input and suggestions from our readers.