Developing Resilient Communities by Leveraging Social Media

Today, social media is considered an essential technology for disaster recovery.  It affords citizens the capability to exchange important real-time disaster-related information, which can help during response and recovery efforts. Social media is also an effective tool to develop communities. Below are three ways that social media was leveraged during disasters:

1.  Increase Citizen Awareness for Disaster preparedness

The Kansas City Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee (MEMC) has created a series of seven YouTube videos that uses two characters, Disaster and Preparedness, to provide emergency preparedness information to its citizens. The first of 7 videos has more than 8,000 viewers. Using these YouTube videos to disseminate information to citizens is effective because they can be easily shared via social media sites such as blogs and other social networking sites. Increase citizens’ awareness of disaster preparation is an important step towards building community resilience.

2.  Design Co-Participatory Disaster Preparedness

Most cities (towns, states, and even countries) maintain websites that let citizens interact and learn basic emergency preparation skills. Rather than simply communicating information, social media allows a city to take a more participatory approach for disaster preparedness. In August 2011, the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN) took a co-participatory approach for its family Emergency Kit Cook-off, which was a new National Preparedness Month activity, in collaboration with the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts by asking citizens to vote for potential ingredients. The participatory approach not only increased citizens’ awareness of emergency preparation, but also developed a sense of community by providing citizens an opportunity to influence disaster preparedness.

3.   Design Co-Participatory Learning

Preserving community memory during disasters is important not only for learning from the incident, but also to enable reflection and storytelling.  Social media sites can help local communities record and document the process of recovery and lessons learned. For example, Joplin’s lessons learned document such as The Use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery by Joplin Tornado Info is an important artifact that serves as a memorial artifact.

Engaging citizens in a disaster management process can be fostered by social media. What do you think about social media use for community building before, during, and after disasters? How can we harness a participatory approach for disaster management?


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