Americans are becoming increasingly reliant on mobile devices during emergencies to provide information, useful tools and a way to let loved ones know they are safe, according to a new survey conducted by the American Red Cross.
Mobile apps now tie social media as the fourth-most popular way to get information in an emergency, following TV, radio and online news.
The Red Cross survey found that 20 percent of Americans said they have gotten some kind of emergency information from an app, including emergency apps, those sponsored by news outlets and privately developed apps.
“We’ve monitored more than 100,000 mentions about Hurricane Isaac on social media,” said Wendy Harman, director of social strategy of the Red Cross. “People are stressed out, scared and seeking information. Social media and apps become a way to reach out to them with emotional support and tips on staying safe.”
The survey also identified a subsection of the population deemed “emergency social users,” people who are the most dedicated users of social media during emergencies. These users are likely to take a safety or preparedness action based on the information they see in their social networks.
Three out of four of these users say they’ve contacted friends and family to see if they were safe and more than a third say social information has motivated them to gather supplies or seek safe shelter.
Emergency social users are also most likely to seek and share information during emergencies. While they look for the hard facts—road closures, damage reports and weather conditions—they share personal information about their safety statuses and how they are feeling.
Three out of four Americans (76 percent) expect help in less than three hours of posting a request on social media, up from 68 percent last year.
Forty percent of those surveyed said they would use social tools to tell others they are safe, up from 24 percent last year.
The Red Cross continues to encourage people to call 9-1-1 as the best first action when in need of emergency assistance. At the same time, the organization is responding to the interest in mobile assistance by releasing a series of free apps for both iPhone and Android users.
The Red Cross introduced apps for shelter locations, first aid tips and instruction and hurricane preparedness, the last of which also includes a flashlight feature as well as one-touch, “I’m safe” messaging that connects directly to the users’ social media channels.
Red Cross plans to unveil several other preparedness apps throughout the fall. Links to the apps can be found at redcross.org//prepare/mobile-apps.
For the survey, two similar polls were fielded during the period June 14-17 by CARAVAN ORC International using two methodologies. The first was online survey of 1,017 respondents representative of the U.S. population aged 18 and older on June 14-17, 2012.
The second was a telephone survey of 1,018 U.S. adults 18 years and older on June 14-17, 2012 conducted by CARAVAN ORC International.
American Red Cross made this announcement today, August 31.
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