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Managing Disaster Response through Social Media

by: Finella Kristle Panlilio

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 |

During the recent Social Good Summit at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa opened by saying, "Someday, we will come together to say we helped prevent the loss of life."

The main focus of PH+SocialGood: The 2013 Manila Social Good Summit was how the effects of climate change can be diminished with the use of technology and social media. Being a frequent recipient of the devastating effects of climate change, citizens of Manila can attest to the important role social media has played the many times calamity has struck the country.

The problem in crisis management
With the help of local officials, several barangays and cities have benefited from the disaster preparedness programs conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The programs have helped communities in assessing risks, as well as finding ways to reduce them. However, there is still room for improvement when it comes to coordination among government agencies and with civil society.

Patrick Meier of Digital Humanitarians admired how the government agencies, news organizations, and rescue groups used Twitter to make it easy for everyone to consolidate information when Typhoon Pablo hit the Philippines in 2012. Although information was shared fast, where people could go for safety was still unsettled.

Toshihiro Tanaka, UNDP Country Director for Philippines, recounted how, in 2011, the people in Japan responded to the nuclear failure in addition to being prepared and well-informed of the disaster. The situation was handled in a calm and educated manner. To achieve that level of preparedness, Tanaka suggested that responsibility must be shared by everyone and that causes and solutions to the problems should be learned.

The role of social media
Mapping has been useful in tracking down terrorists, and according to Ressa, it could also help during emergencies. During disasters, social media often replaces emergency hotlines as the main source for help. People are brought together in social networks where discussions on current issues - both national and global - and crises are held. And in times of calamity, online presence, especially on Twitter, and helping out in crisis mapping can go far.

We live in an age where access to real-time information and news has become as important as our basic need for food and shelter. It is only fitting that we use social media to communicate with and help one another during crises.


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