When disaster strikes, more and more people turn to social media for help.

After posting a request on a social media site, 76 percent of Americans expect help to arrive within three hours, according to a Red Cross survey.

The University of San Francisco School of Online Masters in Public Administration finds social media networks are replacing 9-1-1 as the go-to source for help during a disaster.

With public expectations high, first responders are now faced with the challenge of trying to make sure those needs are being met. Some of those challenges include finding personnel who can devote the time to these efforts in the face of budget and staffing cutbacks. When disaster hits, the number of Facebook posts and tweets spike, so monitoring efforts during disaster could be an enormous challenge.

In addition, how do fire fighters warn off innuendo and prank incidents reported through social media sites?

As technology and social media evolve, the fire service has to think about how to continue to integrate these new channels with traditional means to collect and get information to the public.

IAFF affiliates have opened lines of communication in their communities on Facebook and Twitter – sharing updates about fire and vehicle incidents, as well as tips on how to protect themselves from burn injuries,  home fire safety and how to prepare for weather incidents, among others.

A recent U.S. House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication on social media, raised questions about the type of training first responders need to keep up with advances in the technology.  Lawmakers say they see the importance of social media as a gateway for first responders to connect with the public and victims of disaster for feedback and as a way to stop misinformation from spreading.

Lawmakers say the next step is having more information available for app and web site sharing.

One thing is for certain – social media has changed how we interact with each other daily and is an important factor in how the fire service connects with the public in the future.

How do you see the fire service changing because of social media? What kinds of social media tools do you think your fire department will be using in the future?