As we have discussed before, social media is an excellent tool for getting a lot of information out to a lot of people fast, and therefore an extremely useful tool in some emergency situations. I myself discovered this during the Fredericton Flood of 2008 when I built a site to cover that disaster. I now see The Red Cross is also using it to manage the far worse flooding going on in the US right now. They have set up an online newsroom using Wordpress to get out press releases and other information about the flood and disaster relief.
Here is a list of the tools they are using:
Slide-powered slideshow widget to let people upload photos
Google Maps mashup to show where Red Cross stations are located
What’s interesting is that most of these systems are open, allowing anyone access to either contribute to, or access information from all these facilities. When I set up my disaster site my wife asked if it could ever be seen as official (I put a disclaimer), and what would happen if someone put up something wrong? I did not know for sure, but I guessed that these sites are so useful, needed and valued by the participants that they become “self-policing” with any erroneous content weeded out by the audience itself. I guess the Red Cross agrees.