Being a Red Cross volunteer has become a lot more than setting up cots and handing out coffee. Red Cross DFW is seeking digital volunteers, people to live-Tweet during storms or other events.
“We are more and more relying on getting information out in a number of different channels. Not only through traditional media, but through social media channels,” Amy Chen said. She’s the digital communications manager for Red Cross DFW. “Being able to get our emergency information out wherever people are.”
Yen says volunteers undergo background checks and Red Cross training. They must be proficient on all social media platforms. Phillip Stachelski is Red Cross DFW’s first digital volunteer. He signed on shortly before 17 tornadoes raked across North Texas in April last year. He live-Tweeted for part of the time while taking shelter in his bathroom.
“It just happened really quick in middle of the day and then we had the rare tornado emergencies, kind of the added tornado warning,” Stachelski said.
Anita Foster with the Red Cross was also updating the Twitter feed while in harm’s way that day. She says she heard later from many people who said that’s how they knew to take cover – following the Twitter feed on their phones.
“Thank you for the information. Thank you for responding, and thank you for kind of just giving us a hug while we were out there in the middle of a very scary situation,” Foster said, relating the sort of messages she received.
Foster says Twitter is also helping the Red Cross do its job better.
“What really has shifted is the man on the street information that can come to us. We may be sitting on our Twitter feed and receiving form our followers photographs of their homes – this is what’s happening in my neighborhood right now.”
She say that information creates a road map for volunteers who bring help after the storm has passed.
Digital Red Cross Volunteers also create daily blog posts, shoot smart phone videos to upload on YouTube and respond to questions and concerns.