Social media has changed how we interact with each other daily.  And, it’s no surprise that more people are choosing to use Twitter and Facebook in emergency situations.

In August, the American Red Cross released a social media survey finding that most of the public expect first responders to be actively monitoring their networks. One in 5 adults who couldn’t reach 9-1-1 said they would use some form of digital communication such as email, website or social media like Twitter or Facebook to seek help. About 74 percent of those responding to the American Red Cross survey said they expected to receive help within one hour.

This summer an amateur cyclist who crashed her bike on a secluded Connecticut trail sent out a Twitter message asking for help.  With more than 1,000 followers receiving her tweets on Twitter the cyclist received help in the matter of minutes.

It is not only the public turning to social media in times of emergencies, but local governments are relying on the information found on networks.

While Hurricane Earl threatened the North Carolina coast in September, Catawba County tracked the emergency on Twitter and Facebook.  At the time, The Catawba County programmer Lee Yount said social media has the potential to reduce the strain that 911 centers have endured.

Is your department using social media to help the public? What are the pros/cons? What type of transition is needed for first responders to feel comfortable using social media?