Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations

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Primary Target Country United States of America
Publishing Organisation Congressional Research Service
Language English
Year Published 2011
Target Audience Policy Makers, Practitioners
Status Published
Disaster Management Phase After, Before, During
Covers Thematic Crisis communication, Legal/Standards, Social Media Strategy, Verification
Audience Experience Level Intermediate, Starter
Source Website https://sgp.fas.org/crs/homesec/R41987.pdf
Abstract Potential use of Social Media

The use of social media for emergencies and disasters may be conceptualized as two broad categories.

  • First, social media can be used somewhat passively to disseminate information and receive user feedback via incoming messages, wall posts, and polls.
  • A second approach involves the systematic use of social media as an emergency management tool.
    • Systematic usage might include Public Safety and Crisis Information, Notifications, Emergency Warnings and Alerts, Situational Awareness and Citizen Communications, Requests for Assistance by citizens and Social Media and Recovery Efforts


Lessons Learned and Best Practices

There are a number of “lessons learned” and “best practices” when using social media for emergency management objectives. These include the need to:

  • identify target audiences for the applications, such as civilians, nongovernmental organizations, volunteers, and participating governments
  • determine appropriate types of information for dissemination
  • disseminate information the public is interested in (e.g. what phase the incident is in, etc.)
  • identify any negative consequences arising from the application—such as the potential spread


Potential Policy Implications

While there may be some potential advantages to using social media for emergencies and disasters, there may also be some potential policy issues and drawbacks associated with its use; e.g.

  • Inaccurate Information
  • Malicious Use of Social Media During Disasters
  • Technological Limitations
  • Administrative Cost Considerations
  • Privacy Issues


Please note: Access to the following links is currently only available for project partners

Key facts : Social Media in disaster policies https://safetyinnovationcenter.sharepoint.com/:b:/r/sites/LINKS_shared/Freigegebene%20Dokumente/WP4/Guidelines/Guideline%20Documents/Working%20documents/Action%20cards/G25_SM%20and%20disasters_policy%20considerations_extract_level2.pdf

Social Media in disaster policies - considerations https://safetyinnovationcenter.sharepoint.com/:b:/r/sites/LINKS_shared/Freigegebene%20Dokumente/WP4/Guidelines/Guideline%20Documents/Working%20documents/Action%20cards/G25_SM%20and%20disasters_policy%20considerations_extract_level1.pdf

Is Archived No
Covers platforms

This report summarizes how social media have been used by US emergency management officials and agencies. It also examines the potential benefits (Public Safety and Crisis Information, Notifications, Emergency Warnings and Alerts, Situational Awareness and Citizen Communications, Requests for Assistance, Social Media and Recovery Efforts) as well as the implications, of using social media in the context of emergencies and disasters (Accurate Information, Malicious Use of Social Media During Disasters, Technological Limitations, Administrative Cost Considerations, Privacy Issues)