House Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee Visits Red Cross Digital Ops Center -- Center is First to Use Social Media Monitoring For Disaster Relief

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) visited the American Red Cross Digital Operations Center in Washington, D.C.

In March, the Red Cross, in partnership with Dell, established the Digital Operations Center within its National Disaster Operations Center to utilize social media monitoring to enhance situational awareness about affected areas during and after an emergency.  The Center is the first of its kind, where social media is screened to aid disaster relief.

Subcommittee Chairman Bilirakis said: "Americans are increasingly using social media and according to the 2011 Red Cross Social Media and Technology in Emergencies Survey, 80% of survey respondents expect emergency responders to monitor social media sites.  I commend the Red Cross for leveraging this technology to enhance their response operations that provide care and comfort to so many after disaster strikes."

The Red Cross provides support to affected areas in the event of a disaster, including sheltering, emergency supplies, counseling, and food to victims of disasters.  The organization uses the information gleaned from social media to better anticipate an area’s needs and to provide relief services and supplies more quickly.

In addition to response activities, the Red Cross works with Federal, State, local, and private sector partners to encourage and enhance preparedness for emergencies.  Citizen preparedness is a vital component of national preparedness.  More information on preparing for terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or other emergencies can be found at Ready.gov.

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The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, chaired by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, is one of six subcommittees of the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY).  The Subcommittee jurisdiction includes mitigation, prevention, preparedness, and response efforts for acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies; FEMA; DHS administered grants; preparedness and response capabilities for WMD attacks; the Office of Health Affairs; the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; emergency communications including interoperability, operability, and the activities of the Office of Emergency Communications.