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Social Media: Americans' source for disaster news, help and comfort

Consumer Reports News: August 26, 2011 06:08 PM

The Internet's social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+ and the like, have become our virtual life lines—especially in times of major disasters, such as Hurricane Irene which will affect the U.S. East Coast this weekend.

According to the American Red Cross, two recent show an increasing number of Americans are turning to social networks and online during major events such as the 5.9 earthquake that reverberated through-out the eastern U.S. coast.

Some of the findings from the survey:

  • 80 percent of respondents said they expect first-responders to monitor social media sites during major emergencies.
  • More than one-third of respondents expect help to arrive within an hour of posting help on a social media site.
  • 24 percent of respondents would use social tools to tell others they were safe during an emergency.
  • One in five respondents who have experienced an emergency, posted something about the event on a social site.

Not surprisingly, the American Red Cross has set up its own Facebook page ( and Twitter account (!/RedCross). But it's also set up a "Safe and Well" website (, an online resource where people in disaster areas can use to alert loved ones that they're, well, safe and well.

Of course, communications—landlines, cellular service and wireless Internet networks—in natural disaster areas could be strained or even knocked out completely. So, the American Red Cross reminds everyone not to rely solely on the Net for help during emergencies or their aftermaths.

For a complete guide to staying safe during Hurricane Irene and other disasters, check out our coverage:

For additional online resources regarding major emergencies and natural disasters, see:

Stay safe!

More Americans Using Social Media and Technology in Emergencies [American Red Cross press release]
As Hurricane Irene nears, Americans turn again to social networks [ComputerWorld]
Social media: Communication hub for disasters? [MSNBC]

Paul Eng

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