Social Media and Disasters

After large disasters, public information is very important. People want to be fully informed on the extent of the disaster, and they want to know right away. These days the quickest way to gather the latest information, most of the time, is through social media. Social media allows everyday people to report the news as they see it to a large amount of people. They can do this through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and much more. Average people are not the only ones using social media, and it has become a very important with emergency aid organizations.

The Congressional Research Service found that organizations use social media in emergencies and disasters in two main ways. First, to give out information and receive feedback. The second way is using social media as an emergency management tool. “Systematic usage  might include using the medium to conduct emergency communications and issue warnings; using social media to receive victim requests for assistance; monitoring user activities to establish situational awareness; and using uploaded images to create damage estimates, among others”.(Lindsay)

There is no question that social media has been very beneficial in releasing information to vast amounts of people. There is still worry of the effectiveness and reliability of social media for emergencies. There have been issues of people relying too heavily on social media, and asking for help through Facebook or Twitter, rather than calling 911. There have also been many false alarms through social media, which wastes time and money. Either way, social media usage is here to stay and it will be interesting to see how emergency and disaster management continue to utilize it.


Lindsay, Bruce. Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.


3 responses to “Social Media and Disasters

  • kbruce2016

    I definitely agree that there are two sides to this story, that social media can be a very useful but also a very dangerous tool when it comes to spreading information about disasters. I do wonder if social media companies will ever do something to address this. Although this is impossible with individuals, I think there could be a way to monitor what big companies are putting out there. It will definitely be interesting to follow the use of social media in disaster situations as social media continues to develop and change.

  • jgallag2

    I think you bring up a great point of false alarms. I had never really thought of that but now that I am I feel like it is something that has definitely occurred a fair amount. I can see how this would very easily happen and be very detrimental. Because of the quickness of social media a false alarm of something becomes alarming x 100. Everything done on social media is spread somehow. So misinformation is even worse than in “real life” because it is harder to correct since once it is out you won’t know exactly who knows. As roles arise for a specific person running social media in businesses and organizations there should as well be a role for the monitoring of correct information and usage.

  • emcdona1

    Social media has the ability to be very beneficial in times of disasters. For example, during the recent tornadoes and bad weather sweeping the Southeast, social media played a large role in informing my friends and family of how to stay safe. It also has downsides. And as Julia says, once a false alarm or rumor spreads, it is hard to correct the statement or false information.

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