Saturday, December 5, 2015
Potential to use social media during disasters
National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, is the nodal agency for Disaster management in India. During the recent floods in Chennai (capital city of Tamil Nadu, one of the Southern states of India), NDMA has been playing major role in rescue operations and relief activities. While it is heartening to note how help was pouring for Chennai floods through the use of social media by the citizens, it is equally disappointing to find that NDMA has not utilized the potential of social media to strengthen their rescue and relief strategy. NDMA is presently using three social media platforms namely Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There is no single post on Facebook and no single video on YouTube about the Chennai floods. The latest video on YouTube is 6 months old. There were just four tweets on Twitter @ndmaindia as mentioned below:
NDMA helpline 24*7 is 1078 #ChennaiRainsHelp #ChennaiFloods
All rescue requests to be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. copy to email@example.com. #ChennaiFloods
All requests received for help/rescue being transferred to NDMA and NDRF control room #ChennaiFloods
Please confirm at firstname.lastname@example.org if stranded persons for whom rescue request tweeted, have reached safely, to avoid duplication # ChennaiFloods
The above shows that there is no serious attempt to use the potential of social media by the Government agency. There is still greater emphasis on use of conventional mediums of communication such as helpline and e-mails. While these are important and useful mediums, social media is also an equally important tool during crisis and disaster management, as we have seen in recent incidents in USA and France. There is a need to have institutions such as Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST) in India also, to harness the social media during such disasters.
The use of social media by the Government in India is still novice. However, given the inclination of the present Government towards social media use, it is hoped that in near future, the Government agencies will equip themselves to tap the potential of social media during crisis/disasters.