Social media and mobile apps add to the mass notification arsenal

Every September is National Preparedness month, a nationwide effort to encourage individuals, families, businesses and communities to work together and take action to prepare for emergencies. STE's recent special report, Crisis on Campus, actually gives readers a look at how a robust crisis management plan was coordinated and carried out at Kennesaw State University in the suburbs of Atlanta.

One of the strategies that KSU Chief Security Officer Robert Lang employs is the use of e-mail, voice cell messages and SMS text messages to get the word out about an emergency or crisis situation. According to a recent report by the American Red Cross, it looks to be time to incorporate social media and mobile apps into the mass notification arsenal as well.

According to the report, mobile apps and social media are tied as the fourth-most popular way to get information in an emergency — following TV, radio and online news. The Red Cross survey found that 20 percent of Americans said they have gotten some kind of emergency information from an app, including emergency apps, those sponsored by news outlets and privately developed apps.

"We've monitored more than 100,000 mentions about Hurricane Isaac on social media," said Wendy Harman, director of social strategy of the Red Cross. "People are stressed out, scared and seeking information. Social media and apps become a way to reach out to them with emotional support and tips on staying safe."

The survey also identified "emergency social users" — people who use social media during emergencies. These users are likely to take a safety or preparedness action based on the information they see in their social networks. If you were on Twitter or Facebook on the day of the Aurora theater massacre, you already know how quickly word of an emergency situation can spread on the social network. 

The Red Cross report says more than a third of "emergency social users" say social information has motivated them to gather supplies or seek safe shelter. Emergency social users are also most likely to seek and share information during emergencies. While they look for the hard facts, such as road closures, damage reports and weather conditions, they also share personal information about their safety statuses and how they are feeling. 

Here's a link to the full Powerpoint report from the Red Cross (you must have powerpoint).