The Value of Social Media During Disasters and Helpful Feeds to Follow

If you look at practically any checklist for a disaster preparedness kit, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries will be near the top. Yet although radios will probably always be important to readiness, smart phones have quickly become the preferred resource for figuring out what’s happening and sharing information during natural or man-made disasters. This post explores why and also highlights some helpful social media feeds and apps for businesses and individuals alike.

The Power of Social Media During Disasters
Smart phones and social media have completely changed the dynamics of disaster tracking and, to a lesser extent, response. It’s no wonder since smart phones empower people to quickly share and find useful information on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, that may not be available through a mass media source. Rather than sitting by the radio and hoping to hear useful information, you can see what everyone from local and national authorities to friends, neighbors and nearby businesses or organizations are posting. Social media can even provide a way to make sure friends, family, coworkers and employees are safe when phone lines are down.

In recent years, the uses for social media in disasters have been evolving rapidly. For example, social media has been used for everything from locating missing people and organizing cleanup efforts to coordinating shelters or rescues when first responders couldn’t be reached to sharing updates about conditions or government response.

Social Media, Disaster Readiness and Your Business
The best ways to leverage social media during a disaster to keep employees and customers safe will depend on a variety of factors, including the types of disasters your business is likely to face. And although the uses of social media during a disaster often arise out of necessity, it’s worth thinking about your social media strategy as part of your disaster planning. At the very least, assign a social media spokesperson or point person who can coordinate company messages and response on the various social media platforms during a disaster.

Helpful Apps and Feeds for Natural Disasters
Whether or not your company chooses to be active on social media during or after a disaster, it’s well worth your while to compile a list of social media tools and resources that might be helpful to yourself and to employees—before a disaster strikes. The list below will get you started.

Organizations to consider following on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Red Cross (national and local chapters)
  • Local police department
  • Local fire department
  • City, county and state feeds on Twitter and Facebook
  • Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)

In addition to following useful feeds, it’s also helpful to be aware of how some social media platforms are used during disasters and specific disaster-related resources. Here are a few examples. 

  • Nextdoor: This social network for neighborhoods, which includes an option to set up your business account, can help you understand what’s happening in the immediate vicinity and be used to help organize rescues or cleanup.1
  • Facebook Crisis Response: In addition to being a go-to resource for sharing and discovering local news and information, Facebook’s Crisis Response page includes resources that are useful during and after disasters. For example, Safety Check enables people in a disaster zone to report they are safe.
  • Google Person Finder: This web application provides a way to search for people who are lost after a natural disaster.
  • FEMA App: Available for Apple, Android and Blackberry phones, this app can provide weather alerts, safety tips, information and shelter locations and more.

It’s All About Community
Perhaps more than anything else, disasters quickly bring the importance of strong community ties and connections into focus. That’s why during disasters, social media feeds and apps are much more than a convenient way to understand what’s happening in the area and why it’s worth planning which feeds and apps your business will rely on and how it will use them. Who will you follow first? 

1Why Social Media Apps Should be in Your Disaster Kit,, September 2017.