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Resiliency of society: How social media and citizen reporting can change crisis response

How will you react to a crisis? For many people, running away from an incident isn’t an option, regardless of the circumstances. These people are resilient, and want to search for information and help affected individuals.


A resilient society has shown it will do whatever it takes to provide support during a crisis. Reactions to a crisis vary, but panic is not a common reaction. Instead, many people have shown that they are willing to stay behind and help – just look at citizen responses during several recent incidents:


1. Boston Marathon bombings – Stan Ricks finished running the 2013 Boston Marathon minutes before the bombings. He was in a medical tent when he heard the explosions, and quickly left to make room for those injured in the blasts.


2. Shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords – Daniel Hernandez, a junior at the University of Arizona, was an intern for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords for only five days when the congresswoman was shot in Casas Adobes, Arizona on Jan. 8, 2011. Despite gunfire, Hernandez rushed to Giffords’ side and applied pressure to her head wound until paramedics arrived. He also helped people lying on the ground, moving from person to person and checking pulses.


3. Salon Meritage mass shooting – On Oct. 12, 2011, contractor Doug Childers heard gunshots outside the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, California. Moments later, a man later identified as Scott Dekraai stepped out of Salon Meritage with what appeared to be a gun. He pointed the weapon at Childers, but then kept walking. Childers was the first responder to walk into the salon, and helped survivors get out safely.


In each of these examples, resilient citizens ran towards the crisis and were ready to help those in need. An organization that can leverage the natural tendencies of resilient citizens can gather and share information and improve crisis response. During a crisis, ordinary citizens can become an organization’s eyes and ears. People can use their mobile devices to take photos and videos and share on-the-scene updates via social media. Quantity doesn’t always equate to quality when it comes to information provided on social networks, however, but the following tips can help an organization use on-the-scene photos and videos to improve its crisis response.


Filter and analyze the information. A wealth of information is likely to become available in a crisis. Utilize hashtags and keywords to find quality information on social networks quickly.


Use multiple sources. Gather information from several sources – doing so allows an organization to qualify information provided via social media.


Engage in two-way communication. Direct contacts are vital throughout the lifecycle of a crisis. With two-way communication, an organization can ask follow-up questions, get the latest updates, and relay important information to affected individuals.


Harness citizen-provided information to improve crisis response. To learn more about how social media and citizen reporting can change crisis response, check out this white paper.

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