In a previous post, I mentioned how I have been closely following the Red Cross’ social media sites, including theÂ ARC Online NewsroomÂ and itsÂ TwitterÂ feed to keep apprised of what was happening ‘on the ground’ during Gustav. I have also been monitoring other non-Red Cross related social media sites over the past couple days as they provide their own unique resources, information and perspectives on the disaster, in particularÂ theÂ Gustav Information CenterÂ put together by National Public Radio social media strategist Andy Carvin along with 500 volunteers.Â In a very interestingÂ interview with Carvin just published on the journalism issues site, Poynter.org, Al Tompkins writes that the Center:
“includes a WikiÂ and a site calledÂ “Voices of Gustav.”Â The Voices site is set up to accept calls from people who have been displaced, with the idea that volunteers would transcribe the calls and post them online in a searchable format.Â That effort tapped into theÂ UtterzÂ Web site.Â The effort includes three Twitter feeds includingÂ GustavAlerts,which is a breaking weather feed.Â GustavNewsÂ follows news stories andÂ GustavBlogsÂ focuses on how blogs are reporting the storm.Â Another another team of 50 or so volunteers is working on transcribing reports from ham radio operators and other radio scans.”
In the interview, Carvin explains how new social media technology can tap the incredible amount of knowledge and interest among the citizenry to help during a disaster:
“It’s so easy to forget that there are large numbers of people on the Internet with certain types of expertise that can prove to be invaluable in times of crisis. When you think of typical volunteers in an emergency, it’s often people with EMS backgrounds, Red Cross volunteers and the like, but not people with technology skills. Yet many Internet-savvy people can bring things to the table, pulling together an amazing array of tools and resources that can be useful to the public in times of crisis. So I’m working with an incredible group of these online volunteers to do just that.”
The interview offers a fascinating description of how everything came together for Gustav and provides a real sense of the large and increasing potential of social media as a tool to inform and assist citizens and responders in disasters, and assist the work of the Red Cross and other responders. Carvin has already begun setting up a similar site for Hurricane Hanna.