Dell and the Red Cross create a unique social media monitoring system

    Have you ever thought about how humanitarian organizations work? Take, for example, the Red Cross - the most famous and large-scale association that provides assistance to victims of military conflicts and various kinds of natural disasters. The main task facing this organization is to quickly direct its forces into the disaster zone. But how to achieve this efficiency?

    The most powerful information tool these days is social networks, so it is not surprising that at some point the guys from the American Red Cross came up with the idea to use them in their work. This is how the modern world works: often a person first of all writes a post on his page on Twitter or Facebook, and only then calls where he should.

    Research conducted by the American Red Cross in 2011 showed how powerful social media communication tools are in emergency situations. It is with their help that almost a third of the US population will report in case of force majeure to their loved ones that everything is in order with them. 80% of Americans are also convinced that emergency response services are required to monitor Internet sites and social networks in order to arrive on time for help. By the way, another third of US residents believe that immediate requests will follow for requests for help on social networks from such services.

    Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and other popular media resources are becoming part of the emergency response system - the information in them is spreading with amazing speed. Sometimes even tremors are felt much later than you have time to read tweets about them from residents of neighboring territories. It is not surprising that the Red Cross also wanted to use such a powerful machine in its interests. As a result of the joint efforts of the organization’s American division and Dell, the Digital Control Center, located at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington, was born.

    Like any large-scale project, it was not created in one day. The realization that a modern system is needed to respond quickly to the needs of those affected by natural disasters came during the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Then the workers of the American Red Cross spent a lot of time manually processing all the information coming through social media and sending it to rescue groups in Haiti. It was obvious that the new era required a fundamentally new approach.

    Dell responded to the needs of the Red Cross and offered its help in creating a convenient and effective tool for monitoring social networks and other Internet sites. Anyway, Dell had already had experience developing similar solutions for its customers. As a result of regular meetings, discussions and the search for the best solution, in the winter of 2011, the Digital Control Center (CSC) was created. In March 2012, it was officially launched.

    The data center includes three powerful Dell OptiPlex 790 desktops with pre-installed software (also developed by Dell) and six large monitors. They clearly - in the form of infographics - display the main topics that are currently being discussed on social networks. Usually, three employees work at the Center, but in the event of force majeure, specially trained volunteers come to their aid. If necessary, the central staff and volunteers can receive remote access to data.

    The principle of operation of the Digital Control Center is simple: for certain sets of keywords, the system searches for comments and posts on social networks, blogs, forums, news sites, video and photo hosting sites. If some relevant results were obtained for common keywords (for example, a tornado, earthquake, flood, hurricane, tsunami), then more specific search queries are used. So in a short time, you can not only detect the occurrence of an emergency, but also specify the place of its occurrence and the territory that it covers (or may cover in the future).

    In the period when a particular disaster occurs, the central control center employees are obliged to report to colleagues from the Red Cross headquarters, as well as to those who work at the scene. The report includes how this event is covered on social networks, and the comments that the CCU team leaves in response to requests for help. The Center software developed by Dell provides a simple and convenient tool for generating such reports. In addition, the responsible persons and experts of the organization can communicate directly with users who leave comments and create posts on social networks, and do this from their work computer.

    Just a few days after the official launch of the Central Control Center in March 2012, the states of Kentucky and Indiana underwent a powerful tornado, so the Center employees had the opportunity to test the system in the field. First of all, the team's attention was attracted by the number of reports about the destroyed school in Henryville, Indiana. An instant decision was made to send Red Cross volunteers there — never before had such decisions been made so quickly. At the same time, the TsTSU team informed through its own Facebook and Twitter accounts about the rules for providing first aid to the victims, and also tried with all its might to cheer people who were in the affected area.

    The digital control center developed by Dell for the American Red Cross has become a unique tool for providing prompt assistance to victims. Now they go to the organization’s headquarters as if on an excursion - they look at the work of the Center’s team and volunteers. By the way, in addition to ordinary visitors, there are guests from the White House, the Department of National Security, and other serious state organizations in the Central Control Center.

    In the “load” to create the infrastructure of the Center, Dell helped train Red Cross workers and volunteers on working with social sites. The training was conducted on the basis of the so-called Dell University of Social Media and Communications, a unit in which company employees learn the principles and strategy of working with this type of media resource. Later, the American Red Cross developed two types of certificates that are issued to employees of the organization and volunteers who want to monitor social networks and communicate with victims.

    Today, the Central Control Center continues its active work and helps not only to respond quickly to the needs of victims of natural and man-made disasters, but also to prevent an increase in the number of victims. Now the Red Cross can rightfully be considered an organization of the 21st century, using in its activities the tools that modern technologies open up to it.

    And some videos, as a dessert:

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