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The American Red Cross and Dell Launch First-Of-Its-Kind Social Media Digital Operations Center for Humanitarian Relief

The American Red Cross and Dell today launched a new Digital Operations Center, the first social media-based operation devoted to humanitarian relief, demonstrating the growing importance of social media in emergency situations. The Red Cross also announced a Digital Volunteer program to help respond to questions from and provide information to the public during disasters.

Located in the Red Cross National Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C., the center is modeled after Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center and uses Dell technology solutions and consulting services.

The center will help expand the Red Cross’s ability to engage with the public during emergencies. Tests run during recent tornadoes in the Midwest enabled Red Cross team members to determine where to position workers on the ground. Tools like heat maps also helped visualize spikes and prevalent themes in social conversations, contributing to relief-response strategies

“The use of social media during disasters has grown exponentially in recent years, and this partnership with Dell will enable us to better understand and anticipate disaster needs and help connect people with the resources they need during emergencies,” said Gail J. McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross. “Our goal is to become a social liaison for people, families and communities to support one another before, during and after disasters.”

Specifically, the Digital Operations Center will help the Red Cross:

  • Source additional information from affected areas during emergencies to better serve those who need help;
  • Spot trends and better anticipate the public’s needs; and
  • Connect people with the resources they need, like food, water, shelter or even emotional support.
  • A Red Cross survey revealed that the Internet now is the third most commonly used way for people to get emergency-related information; nearly a fourth of the general public and a third of the online population would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe. The survey found that people use social media during disasters to get updates, seek and give help, and connect with loved ones.

    View a timeline of technology and Disaster Relief

    “Social media is playing a growing role in how the public and non-profit sectors listen and respond to Americans in need,” said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell “Through Dell’s Social Media Command Center, we’ve been able to innovate and improve how we support and engage our customers. We’re excited to partner with the Red Cross to extend similar capabilities to their humanitarian relief efforts nationwide.”

    Modeled after Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center, the Red Cross Digital Operations Center will be staffed when the Red Cross Disaster Operation Center is activated during major disasters, but social data visualizations will be updated and visible around the clock, allowing for engagement at any time. The American Red Cross responds to more than 200 disasters on an average day, from house fires to major events

    Social media has become a critical component of disaster response efforts conducted by the Red Cross and other response agencies. While social media complements existing traditional response efforts, 9-1-1 remains the best first action to take when a person needs emergency assistance.

    As demonstrated by Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center, a central hub and standardized processes for social media listening and engagement increases organizational capacity to listen and respond to more people Dell’s social media listening strategy helps the company connect with thousands of customers, stakeholders, influencers every day. Social media also has enabled Dell to respond quickly to customers needing technical care or support.

    New digital volunteer program to increase online engagement

    In conjunction with the Digital Operations Center, the Red Cross also announced the creation of a Digital Volunteer Program. Digital volunteers from across the country will be trained to respond online to questions from the public, distribute critical information and provide comfort and reassurance during emergencies.

    The digital volunteers will play a critical role in working to verify and curate an incredible volume of data during disasters, notifying Digital Operations Center staff of online trends and situational information that can inform disaster-response efforts Equally important, they will engage with people affected by disasters, providing them with critical safety information, resources and comforting messages.

    Dell solutions provide the Red Cross with innovative ways to help Americans impacted by disaster

    Dell provided the Red Cross with the unique consulting expertise, technology solutions and funding to architect and build the new Digital Operations Center and design the Digital Volunteer program. Dell’s involvement is part of the company’s larger commitment to the Red Cross, which it has expanded to include additional general funding, technology and employee engagement to support innovative disaster relief programs.

    As a member of the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, Dell helps the Red Cross assist victims of disaster and support volunteers who work at disaster scenes Members of the Annual Disaster Giving Program pledge donations in advance of major disasters to help the Red Cross ensure an immediate response to meet the needs of those affected by disasters.

    Public and private sectors collaborating on crisis-response in social media

    The Red Cross has been engaged in a multi-year effort to improve the use of social data in emergencies, working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the White House and other public and private sector organizations. After hosting an Emergency Social Data Summit in 2010, these organizations have continued to collaborate and identify solutions focused on people, process and technology. A white paper released after the Summit identified a number of necessary steps, and stressed the importance of having a network of engaged volunteers to implement new monitoring and response methods.

    Related Links:

  • Livestream and virtual press kit:
  • Twitter:
  • Flickr:
  • American Red Cross Press Release, “Web Users Increasingly Rely on Social Media to Seek Help in a Disaster,” August 9, 2010
  • American Red Cross Press Release, “More Americans Using Social Media and Technology in Emergencies,” August 24, 2011
  • Direct2Dell Blog Post, “Dell’s Next Step: the Social Media Listening Command Center,” December 8, 2010
  • Blog: the Red Cross’s Emergency Social Data Summit (August 2010)
  • White Paper: “The Case for Integrating Crisis Response With Social Media”
  • White Paper: “The Path Forward”
  • Bylined Article: By Wendy Harman, Social Media Director for the American Red Cross, “Preparing for the Next Disaster: The Future of #crisisdata”
  • Clemson University and Dell Launch Command Center
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