While I was in Washington, D.C. Thursday, IÂ visitedÂ theÂ American Red Cross‘Â Disaster Response CenterÂ to learn more about theÂ growing role of new media in the Red Cross’s response efforts duringÂ the Midwestern floods and tornadoes.
Wendy Harman and Claire Johnson of the Red Cross’Â Social MediaÂ unit — which coordinates the organization’sÂ onlineÂ public affairs initiatives — kindly took a moment from their busy day to brief me onÂ their work.
Social Media Unit membersÂ Wendy Harman (standing) andÂ Claire Johnson (sitting) in the Red Cross’ Disaster Operations Center. Public affairs staffer Lesly Simmons is at the left.
Wendy and Claire developed and overseeÂ the Red Cross’Â “Online Newsroom” blog for “Central U.S. Floods and Tornadoes”Â which can be found at redcrossmidwestflooding.wordpress.com/. The Online Newsroom is full of constantly updated information on the unfolding emergency — current statistics, pressÂ releases, photos, audioÂ and video — reported byÂ a team of public affairs staffers spread throughout the flood areas.Â It is a terrific resource for reporters, emergency officials and theÂ public.
The site also providesÂ details on other Red Cross onlineÂ sitesÂ – such as theÂ Safe & Well List, which isÂ a way for family members to communicate with each other during a disaster. There is also a Red Cross Flickr photo streamÂ atÂ http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanredcross/Â 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 isÂ the organization’s central blog,Â Red Cross Chat, which can be found at http://www.redcrosschat.org.Â These preparedness 2.0 initiatives areÂ part of the Red Cross’Â ramped up effort to integrate newÂ communications technologies into its existingÂ activities — and, while they’re at it, helpÂ update the organization’s public image for the 21st Century.
Staffers atÂ American Red Cross Disaster Operations Center monitor Midwest floods.
Wendy told me that the Red Cross’ social media presence isÂ ”still in its diapers” and will be evolving in the months to come. In fact, sheÂ says they are “open to new ideas” and welcome any input and suggestions from ourÂ readers.Â