“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe… It’s moments like this that being able to connect matters.” This quote by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, highlights the benefits of social media in emergency management.
The above quote shows we live in a world of increasing interconnectedness between people and companies across the globe. Social media continues to develop and play a more significant role in our daily lives.
Social media has developed from looking at photos of what your friend had for lunch or his new puppy. To a place where most people get their daily news.
Today one of the first things most people do every morning is to check Facebook, X (Twitter) or another social media platform on their smartphones to see what’s trending.
Thus, when a crisis, such as a natural disaster or pandemic, affects public health, social media, most notably X (Twitter) and Facebook, will always be needed.
Social media has given rise to what we can call citizen or social journalism. News stories of natural disasters and other emergencies can break instantly on one popular social media platform. This is not peculiar to Nigeria alone but worldwide. Citizens go on their favourite social network to share breaking news that spreads far across the globe.When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe… It’s moments like this that being able to connect matters.” - Mark Zuckerberg Click To Tweet
How Social Media Affects Emergency Management?
Using social media during an emergency helps with information dissemination. It allows us to communicate quickly and efficiently. Social media provides citizens with critical real-time updates about emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic happening around the world and other issues that can trickle down to affect them. Social media also creates opportunities for collaboration among different stakeholders involved in emergency response.
Social media is an essential tool for emergency management. It allows us to communicate with our community and share information quickly and efficiently. However, social media also poses risks to emergency managers. For example, if you post something on Facebook or X (Twitter) that could be misinterpreted, it could lead to unnecessary panic.
The best way to avoid this is only to post information that you know is true and will not cause harm. If you decide to share information online, it’s important to remember that people may take what you say out of context. It’s also worth remembering that your comments on a social media channel may offend some people. So as a business owner and social media user, you need to be careful what you post because it may affect your brand in the future.
That’s why I often advise clients to have a social media strategy or policy that covers a wide variety of situations you or your team may encounter when using your social media account. It would help if you saw this as preparedness planning in an emergency.
Benefits of Social Media for Emergency Management
When disaster strikes, most people turn to social media networks to get news. They get necessary updates from persons at the centre of the event.
For example, after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, social media was used to link healthcare providers requiring supplies to those who had them. In Haiti and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, trapped victims could use social media services via their mobile phones to summon help and communicate with responders.
Using social media in disaster risk reduction and disaster management situations has made many disaster responses, disaster management, and relief organisations focus on boosting their social media activities. They alert the public of efforts they’re preparing to give relief.
The American Red Cross’ ” Social Media in Disasters and Emergencies ” survey of 1,058 adults shows that 18% would turn to digital social media if calls to 911 were unsuccessful.
Even after disaster strikes, social media is still used to help others find their loved ones.
For example, Facebook has introduced a feature that allows you to mark yourself ‘safe’ during an emergency. This feature will notify your loved ones that you are safe and reduce their anxiety.
Also, the number of people using social media has increased from 5% in 2005 to 69% in 2016. Source: https://www.onsolve.com/blog/emergency-management-trends-2018/
69% of the adults surveyed said emergency response agencies should regularly monitor their websites and social media networks. It is so they can respond promptly to requests for help posted there; 74% said they would expect help to arrive within an hour.
Before, during and after disaster strikes, businesses across the globe use their company’s social media pages to tell their shareholders, customers, and different stakeholders of their standing.
Some brands also use their web presence to update the public on their action plan to rebuild, move or reopen for business continuity.
Even in Nigeria, the federal government, local government and government agencies use social media to communicate during such emergencies.
Your business can use social media to its advantage by tracking specific hashtags and keywords.
Where cell services are not available, your business can still make social media a part of its communication with the public.
Through social media monitoring, relevant organisations can gather information from followers through real-time pictures and videos—information about relief activities in progress, whether after a fire, flood or hurricane.
The most common social media monitoring software type is ‘social listening’. This social media tool allows you to search through all the posts on a particular platform, such as X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., and listen out for keywords or phrases that may indicate a problem. The emergency management agency or other emergency responders can adopt it in crisis management or any different emergency management situation during an emergency event.When disaster strikes, most people turn to social media networks to get news. Click To Tweet
Disadvantages of Social Media in Emergency Management
Despite the many benefits of social media in emergency management, we also realise that social media also has disadvantages. Such as when the information is incorrect or malicious, it hinders response efforts.
With the rapid rate at which tweets and posts come in, your business should use social media with caution to not spread wrong information.
Anyone can report anything on social media. It means that we do not verify a lot of the information from official sources.
For example, studies show that outdated, inaccurate information has been disseminated via social media forums during disasters.
So it would help if you exercised caution before you re-post or retweet any information from unverified sources.
Be selective about the sources from which you receive your information. Scammers can use social media to ask for funds from you. They will attempt to steal your bank details.The use of social media in emergency management situations has made many disaster relief organisations focus on boosting their social media activities. Click To Tweet
Make sure you research and verify the legitimacy of any organisation before you give money to any organisation.
A wise business owner needs to integrate social media with traditional communications channels. The two platforms are mutually supportive in communicating with the public.
Have you been in a situation when you had to rely on social media? Please share your experience with us on X (Twitter) @mauconline. Stay safe.