In the United States alone, an average of 400 people die from disasters that also costs the economy $17.6 billion dollars. Social media is now the “go-to” tool for those that are responding to these cataclysmic events.
Online social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter often serve as breaking news roles for natural disasters. These are the first websites that mention the news and because both outlets are seen and used by millions of users, these sites help communicate the news to a large mass of people. Social media has played a large part in allowing people to ask for help, present volunteers and raise money once these disasters occur.
They ways in which social media helps in disasters are vast. Survivors use social media to contact friends to make sure they are safe, download disaster-related apps, let loved ones know they are safe themselves, buy supplies and retrieve emergency information.
Social media has a proven track record of success during natural disasters. When the tsunami hit Japan in March, 2011, Facebook recorded 4.5 million status updates from around the world. There were 1,188 tsunami-related tweets sent each minute during this time. When the earthquake hit Haiti in January, 2010, 2.3 million tweets were sent out in resulting in $3 million raised in the first 48 hours to the Red Cross. At its peak, Instagram users uploaded pictures related to Hurricane Sandy at a rate of 10 photos per second. A staff of 23 Red Cross volunteers monitored 2.5 million Sandy-related social media posts, tweets and pictures.
The results of a recent study released by the Red Cross has shown that the public is now seeing social media as an important medium to communicate with their friends, loved ones and colleagues and help seek help before, during and after an emergency situation. From locating survivors, to raising money, it is clear that social media is quickly becoming the most efficient outlet for managing disaster response.