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Using Social Media Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster

Ahead of National Preparedness Month (September) in the United States, the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others are joining forces to teach people how to use technology and social media to prepare for emergencies. Here are some helpful tips: 

Before a Natural Disaster

Make a Plan: One of the best ways to avoid significant damage from a natural disaster is to create an emergency plan in advance. You can use Facebook to create a group devoted to these details for friends and family. This means that in the event of a natural disaster, there is a hub of information for your loved ones to know where to go and how to meet up once the danger has passed. Learn how to create a Facebook Group here.

Preserve Documents: Upload password protected copies of key documents to a backup or cloud drive that is secured in a remote location. If remote access is chosen, consider choosing a backup system that is secure and accessible from a variety of devices, should yours prove inoperable. Examples of documents could include: 

○      Insurance paperwork

○      Copies of identification documents (birth certificates, passports, etc)

○      Pet information (photos, vaccination records)

○      Basic financial information (contact information for credit cards, banks, etc)

○      Family emergency plans

Stay Up to Date: Follow Red Cross and FEMA news and information on Facebook  facebook.com/redcross and facebook.com/FEMA. 


During a Natural Disaster

Update Your Status: During a disaster, alert your loved ones about your location with Facebook status updates. Be sure to adjust your privacy settings accordingly and consider building a Facebook friend list in advance to ensure the right people see your updates. You can also alert local emergency personnel by posting on the wall of the appropriate agency's Facebook page.

Social Media on Your Mobile: During a natural disaster, a computer may not be accessible. By having the Facebook application on your mobile phone or using m.facebook.com on a mobile browser, you can easily update your status to let your loved ones know where you are and if you are okay. The new Facebook Messenger application is another way to reach family and friends in the event of a disaster.  


After a Natural Disaster

Help is on the Way: Social media is a very useful tool for emergency personnel to let affected regions know where and when they are deploying. For instance, after tornadoes struck Joplin, Missouri, the Missouri National Guard turned to Facebook to alert people that soldiers were being deployed immediately. 

Rebuilding After a Disaster: Facebook is a useful platform to collect clothing, non-perishable food items, furniture, and other goods as well as raise money and awareness after a natural disaster. Consider creating a Facebook page for relief efforts in your city or town if disaster strikes. 

Additional Tech Prep Tips for National Preparedness Month

●      Identify an out of town friend you can call in case you don't have access to the Internet, who can spread the word about your condition and whereabouts via social media channels. People outside of your area may have better access to communication tools.

●      Upload mobile apps to help stay informed of weather, evacuation routes, shelter locations and to have emergency training at your fingertips.The Red Cross has two free apps: The Red Cross “shelter finder” app lists the locations of open shelters and the SOS Emergency app puts first aid and CPR information at your fingertips. Both can be accessed at www.redcross.org/techready. FEMA’s smartphone app lets you apply for disaster assistance, map disaster recovery centers and stay connected.

●     Store extra batteries or chargers (hand-crank or solar) with your emergency preparedness kits or in an automobile, so your devices can remain powered.

●     Use a web based mapping tool, such as Google Maps, to map out multiple evacuation routes from your neighborhood and map multiple meeting sites for your family.

●     If you own or manage a business, use the Red Cross Ready Rating tool to get your workplace prepared. Go to www.readyrating.org to use a free online checklist to measure your workplace preparedness efforts and receive customized feedback about how to improve your preparedness level.

 ●      After a disaster, go to www.redcross.org/safeandwell and register on Safe and Well. From that site you can update your Facebook and Twitter status to let your loved ones and friends know that you are safe. Alert those in your social networking circles of your status. A quick post of “I’m ok” or using the hashtag #imok will be sufficient.

●      In an emergency, you still need to call 9-1-1 for help. Be patient. You may find that cell phone coverage is spotty or unavailable or that it takes a while to get through.