Red Cross: Facebook, Twitter becoming popular tools during disasters

According to Becker, the most effective way to help is to “communicate with people the way that they already do,” such as through text messaging or utilizing pre-existing social media sites instead of creating your own.

He said the American Red Cross has sent out 30-35 million text messages telling families where to find help or what they themselves can do to help. And although the American Red Cross has had a system in place to help families find others in times of a disaster, the connections they were able to make were “dwarfed” by those made on Facebook.

“These are the normal systems that people have, and I think a lot of the social media tie-ins are changing how we do business,” he said.

During disaster situations, social media allows organizations to tell people how to do so. As an example, Becker cited the Dupont Snowball Fight of 2010, which was mainly organized on Facebook.  In a similar way, Becker stressed that organizations could use tools like Facebook to organize ways for people to help out in a disaster.

While a "tweet" doesn’t replace a fire engine, it gives people an easy, effective and quick way to reach out for help or offer it.

Simply putting a Twitter or Facebook feed on a county’s web page, “it empowers people to become part of the disaster solution in ways that weren’t possible a very short time ago.”

But putting yourself out there on these social medias, you are also making a promise to your residents, says Becker.

“The good news is we can learn and be in dialogue with the effected people very quickly on an incredible scale," he said. "The bad news is that creates incredible expectations of a finite police force, of a finite medical response, of a finite fire response in those earliest hours.”