A very interesting American Red Cross survey released this morning indicates that many web users would turn to social media to seek help for themselves or others during emergenciesâ€”and they expect first responders to be listening.
In fact,Â 74 percent of those polled expected help to come less than an hour after their tweet or Facebook post.
The Red Cross commissioned the survey in advance of its Emergency Social Data Summit set for Thursday, August 12, in Washington, D.C. The meeting, convened by the Red Cross, will bring together thought leaders and experts in the government, social media, emergency response and the non-profit sectors to discuss better ways to handle information that flows through the web during disasters.
According to the Red Cross press release:
The online survey asked 1,058 adults about their use of social media sites in emergency situations. It found that if they needed help and couldnâ€™t reach 9-1-1, one in five would try to contact responders through a digital means such as e-mail, websites or social media. If web users knew of someone else who needed help, 44 percent would ask other people in their social network to contact authorities, 35 percent would post a request for help directly on a response agencyâ€™s Facebook page and 28 percent would send a direct Twitter message to responders.
Web users also have clear expectations about how first responders should be answering their requests. The survey showed that 69 percent said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites in order to quickly send helpâ€”and nearly half believe a response agency is probably already responding to any urgent request they might see.
As the story I posted yesterday about the Boston subway flasher indicates, not all government agencies are yet monitoring social media.
The survey also found that among web users, social media sites are the fourth most popular source for emergency information, just behind television news, radio and online news sites. More web users say they get their emergency information from social media than from a NOAA weather radio, government website or emergency text message system.