Home > BLOG 4, Crisis Communication > Blog #4 – Facebook, Twitter, and Disaster Response

Blog #4 – Facebook, Twitter, and Disaster Response

I’m sure many of us are already aware that millions of people use Facebook and Twitter for everyday entertainment purposes, but what about using them in more dire circumstances, like that of a disaster scenario? Word travels fast on these social media outlets, so it would only make sense that they should be routinely utilized to spread important and time-sensitive information as well.

This video may just be for laughs, but it also raises a very good point – With as quick as social media can be updated, it is possible to forewarn people in advance of a disaster and give them enough time to respond, perhaps saving their cup of coffee, or perhaps saving lives.

FEMA already has a verified Twitter page (@FEMA) as well as a Facebook page, so they have already recognized the potential benefit of using social media to warn people of impending or occurring disasters. And if other social media users are anything like me (and I’m sure they are, if not worse) then they are checking their Twitter or Facebook almost compulsively.

Which means seeing the Fail Whale is simultaneously amusing and rage-inducing.

That means any potential information being posted on either of the sites can be quickly obtained. Perhaps looking at friends’ status updates on Facebook or looking at the local Trending Topics on Twitter will clue you in about an ongoing disaster you weren’t even aware of. I think a lot of people may laugh off the idea of trusting Facebook or Twitter with saving your life, but if you are able to find out about a disaster, perhaps a tornado or flood, before you find yourself caught in it and you are given enough time to prepare, that entertainment device has just become a life saving tool.


Besides warning others who may not be aware that a disaster has occurred or is occurring, Twitter and Facebook can also make information readily available about what to do after you have already experienced a disaster situation. Perhaps you missed the status updates and tweets about a disaster situation in your area, but luckily, you have your smart phone with you and are able to tweet or make a status update that you need help. Others can see this, and there is a good possibility someone will be in a position to find help for you.

In a disaster situation, Twitter could be a good source for both help and information.

Besides allowing you to reach out for help, Twitter and Facebook can be a source of information of what your next steps should be following a disaster, and if you happen to be one of the lucky ones that aren’t directly affected, social media can be a good source of information on what you can do to help those around you.

Organizations like FEMA or the American Red Cross (Facebook, Twitter) can use these social media to offer information online to those wishing to help, or who don’t know what to do after being affected by a disaster themselves. All-in-all, Facebook and Twitter can be extremely useful both during and after the initial disaster. They can offer an opportunity to get help if you need it, as well as work as a source of information about what to do after a crisis.

So in the future, don’t be too quick to write-off Facebook and Twitter as just a waste of time, because one day you could be relying on it for life-saving information.

  1. November 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    So, if people used to get disaster information from TV or radio, are Twitter and Facebook just a quicker version of these older media forms? Or is there something different about them that make them particularly useful during or following a disaster?

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