Social Media – The New Face of Disaster Response

A few weeks ago I received a notification from Facebook to let my friends know that I was safe from a bomb that apparently went off near me. I live in rural Utah and couldn’t find anything related to the bomb in the local news outlets. Unfortunately, a real bomb went off in Pakistan nearly 8,000 miles away. I later found out that Facebook had a glitch in their system, causing the same notification to be sent to many throughout the world. This made me realize that social media is a quick new way to communicate during a disaster.

As early as 2007, residents where a disaster hit started using hashtags in Twitter as an organized way of tracking what was happening in the aftermath of a disaster. You can easily find updates to a disaster when you know which hashtag is being used. Today we have a better understanding that social media is a quick way to communicate the effects of a disaster to a broader audience. The infographic below from our friends at the University of San Francisco demonstrates just how beneficial social media has been during different disasters. After perusing, let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


USF Online MPA Program