More Internet users are turning to social media to get help for themselves or others during emergencies, according to a new survey from the American Red Cross.
The survey found if people needed help and could not reach 9-1-1, one in five would try to contact responders via email, websites or social media. If Internet users knew of someone else who needed help, 44 percent would ask other people in their social network to contact authorities, 35 percent would post a request for help directly on a response agency's Facebook page and 28 percent would send a Twitter message to responders.
"The first and best choice for anyone in an emergency situation is to call 9-1-1," said Gail McGovern, American Red Cross president and CEO.
"But when phone lines are down or the 9-1-1 system is overwhelmed, we know that people will be persistent in their quest for help and use social media for that purpose."
More than two-thirds (69%) of Internet users said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites to send help quickly and nearly half believe a response agency is probably already responding to any urgent requests.
"The social web is creating a fundamental shift in disaster response-one that will ask emergency managers, government agencies and aid organizations to mix time-honored expertise with real-time input from the public," McGovern said. "We need to work together to better respond to that shift."
The Red Cross survey also found among Internet users, social media sites are the fourth most popular source for emergency information, behind television news, radio and online news sites. More Internet users say they get their emergency information from social media than from a NOAA weather radio, government websites or an emergency text message system. One in five social media users also report posting eyewitness accounts of emergency events to their accounts.