When it comes to using ‘new’ media to assist in a disaster, the Red Cross is normally ahead of the curve. In 1881 the Telegraph was used to relay disaster response communications. Fifty years later, amateur radio users helped relay disaster messages on behalf of the Red Cross across the United States. Following research commissioned in 2010 that showed over 70% of web users would expect a response via social media channels and a White Paper on The Case for Integrating Crisis Response with Social Media the American Red Cross recently announced a joint initiative with Dell in opening a Digital Operations Centre to help expand the Red Cross’s ability to engage with the public during emergencies.
Located in the Red Cross National Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C., the center is modeled after Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center. The primary aim of the Operations Centre is to help the Red Cross to:
- Source additional information from affected areas during emergencies to better serve those who need help;
- Spot trends and better anticipate the public’s needs; and
- Connect people with the resources they need, like food, water, shelter or even emotional support.
Perhaps even more interesting than the opening of the Operations Centre is the announcement of a digital volunteer programme to help the Red Cross during emergencies. It’s a pretty logical move for the Red Cross when you think about it. With just under 700,000 followers on twitter and over 400,000 fans on Facebook they have a pretty wide net they can throw when a disaster hits.
For more information on the Operations Centre and how it works the Red Cross have posted a video here
Given the speed at which a crisis can strike (whether it’s physical, operational or reputation based) it strikes me that an operations or command centre (even if it is just a dedicated desk) seems to be a necessity for most organisations these days.
What do you think? Should organisations maintain a dedicated social media crisis centre? Have you seen an example of an organisation using their fan base to help in times of crisis?