By Sarah-Maude Guindon

In May, the Canadian Red Cross released the report Information in Disasters illustrating how the digital landscape has evolved since its 2012 report Social Media in Emergencies. New survey results show that:

  • Two thirds of Canadians, compare to half of them in 2012, would be likely to sign up for emails, text or apps providing information in an emergency.
  • Emergency situations led nearly a third of respondents to sign up to receive information during or after an incident. Facebook was the preferred platform for such updates, followed by emails and text alerts.
  • Canadians are looking for trusted sources of information, and they list Local or Provincial Government (55%), Red Cross (40%) and the Media (40%) as the top trusted sources

The second half of the report reflects on the Red Cross recent experience in disaster response. Its experience illustrates how people turn to social media to ask questions or make comments during response and recovery periods. This requires to monitor social media continuously to identify people who need help, address question in a timely manner, and discover and refute misinformation. It also shows the importance of digital technology in helping people. For example, access to online registration or electronic fund transfers can now provide essential and timely support for disaster zone evacuees, regardless of their destination.

However, even if digital technology is more present, the most vulnerable are less likely to have access to smartphone and computers, and may have challenges navigating online resources or own a bank account. Therefore, the Red Cross underlines the importance of adapting response and recovery communication and outreach tools to make sure that everyone who needs help can access it.

Learn more about the survey.

Sarah-Maude Guindon works in emergency management for the Canadian Red Cross. She holds a master’s degree in Disaster and Emergency Management from York University and a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Montréal. Prior to her current position, Sarah-Maude worked in urban planning, public safety and transport at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.