What to keep in case of an emergency? Bottled water. Flashlight. Smartphone?
The Red Cross certainly had that last one in mind Wednesday when it unveiled its new social-media driven “Digital Operations Center.”
Red Cross officials believe the Washington, D.C.-based operation will help them gather and react to pertinent national disaster information in real-time.As part of the initiative, the Red Cross will train volunteers from around the country to monitor Facebook and Twitter in order to help direct aid to the victims of national disasters. They’ll do this thousands of miles away from the emergency site — all from the comfort of their hand-held devices.“It doesn’t matter where the volunteer is located, as long as they have internet access,” said Renee Caldwell Hughes, CEO of the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the organization. “It’s simply another way for the Red Cross to be eminently responsive.”Hughes expects many in the region to sign up for the volunteer training. She says it’s a great way for those lacking the ability or will to help out on the ground to offer potentially life-saving assistance.“In a large national disaster where people could be cut off, and the only information that’s able to get out is digital information,” she said, “this would allow us to get accurate information and respond quickly.”Red Cross officials say they’ve tested the new program to great effect during the recent tornadoes in the Midwest.The organization maintains that dialing 911 is still the most effective way to seek help in an emergency.Sign ups for digital-volunteer training will begin soon.