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Red Cross goes digital to give quicker aid

By Faith Heaton | Posted - Mar. 20, 2012 at 8:56 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Businesses track customers' movements online to better reach their audiences. Now the American Red Cross is using social media to help reach victims of disaster immediately.

The Red Cross partnered with Dell to launch its Digital Operations Center earlier this month.

When tornadoes struck across the Midwest in early March, the Red Cross went into action by monitoring Twitter and Facebook.

"We were starting to see tweets come up on the map, especially in Indiana and Kentucky," said Gloria Huang from the American Red Cross. They found that many people hunker down with their mobile devices, and the Red Cross was able to track the location and need of those individuals.


We can see them online and just extend a hand and say 'Hey, here's how you can get help and if you need it. We're here for you. Here's our digital hug to you.

–- Gloria Huang


"We can see them online and just extend a hand and say 'Hey, here's how you can get help and if you need it, we're here for you,' " said Huang. "Here's our digital hug to you."

The use of social media gave the Red Cross access to those in the storm's path. According to Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, CEO of the Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter, the center (based in Washington D.C.) would be activated in times of a disaster.

Hughes told CBS the system would enable specially trained Red Cross volunteers to join in a response to larger-scale disasters several states away by providing data to help victims locate food, water, shelter and other critical information. The volunteers could use computers in theirs home.

The Red Cross is the first national humanitarian relief agency to use social media to help even as a disaster is happening.

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Faith Heaton

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