STUDY: 1 in 5 Use Facebook For Emergencies

New survey results released today by the American Red Cross finds that 18 percent of respondents use Facebook to gather emergency information in disaster situations.

Nearly one in five people in the U.S. use Facebook to obtain information during a disaster — like what happened during yesterday’s Atlantic coast earthquake.

The Red Cross study was conducted by telephone and online by Caravan ORC International. Among the other key findings:

  • Nearly a fourth of the general population and a third of the online population would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe.
  • Four of five (80 percent) of the general and 69 percent of the online respondents surveyed believe that national emergency response organizations should regularly monitor social media sites in order to respond promptly.
  • For those who would use social media to ask for help, 39 percent of those polled online and 35 percent of those polled via telephone said they would expect help to arrive in less than one hour.

In an interview with, U.S. Red Cross Senior Director of Disaster Services Trevor Riggen the role Facebook now plays in disaster relief efforts.

From the tsunami in American Samoa to Haiti and Japan, people are leveraging the same tools that they share pictures and experiences to express need, share critical recovery information and proclaim their status as safe.

Riggen cited his group’s Safe and Well site as one way its leveraging Facebook in disaster planning and preparation. The site enables people to share the status of their situation following an event and even post a Facebook update to family and friends.

In the future, Riggen believes Facebook could be a tool to recruit or even train Red Cross volunteers, as well as play a part in assessing the damage after a disaster strikes.

He will discuss this further on Facebook D.C. Live today at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, along with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William Fugate and U.S. National Weather Service Deputy Director Laura Furgione.

What questions would you like to see them answer about disaster preparedness and Facebook?