Red Cross Launches Social Media Command Center for Disaster Relief

The center will help expand the Red Cross’s ability to engage with the public during emergencies. Tests run during recent tornadoes in the Midwest enabled Red Cross team members to determine where to position workers on the ground.

American Red Cross and Dell have launched a new Digital Operations Center, a social media-based operation designed for humanitarian relief, demonstrating the growing importance of social media in emergency situations. The Red Cross also announced a Digital Volunteer program to help respond to questions from and provide information to the public during disasters.

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 and uses Dell technology solutions and consulting services.

The center will help expand the Red Cross’s ability to engage with the public during emergencies. Tests run during recent tornadoes in the Midwest enabled Red Cross team members to determine where to position workers on the ground. Tools like heat maps also helped visualize spikes and prevalent themes in social conversations, contributing to relief-response strategies.

“The use of social media during disasters has grown exponentially in recent years, and this partnership with Dell will enable us to better understand and anticipate disaster needs and help connect people with the resources they need during emergencies,” said Gail J. McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross. “Our goal is to become a social liaison for people, families and communities to support one another before, during and after disasters.”

Specifically, the Digital Operations Center will help the Red Cross:

  • 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 emotional support.

A Red Cross survey revealed that the Internet now is the third most commonly used way for people to get emergency-related information; nearly a fourth of the general public and a third of the online population would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe. The survey found that people use social media during disasters to get updates, seek and give help, and connect with loved ones.

Modeled after Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center, the Red Cross Digital Operations Center will be staffed when the Red Cross Disaster Operation Center is activated during major disasters, but social data visualizations will be updated and visible around the clock, allowing for engagement at any time.

In conjunction with the Digital Operations Center, the Red Cross also announced the creation of a Digital Volunteer Program. Digital volunteers from across the country will be trained to respond online to questions from the public, distribute critical information, and provide comfort and reassurance during emergencies.

The digital volunteers will play a role in working to verify and curate an incredible volume of data during disasters, notifying Digital Operations Center staff of online trends and situational information that can inform disaster-response efforts.

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