Dell Powers Red Cross Social Media Command Center

Dell partners with the American Red Cross to furnish it with technology dedicated to monitoring social media activity to improve emergency response and disaster recovery operations.

By Kenneth Corbin
Thu, March 08, 2012

CIO — WASHINGTON -- PC giant Dell joined with the American Red Cross on Wednesday to unveil a new "digital operations center" devoted to helping the relief organization sharpen its response to emergencies and connect with victims using social media tools.

Dell Powers Red Cross Social Media Command Center
Projection screens track social media activity in the operations center at the Red Cross headquarters

The facility, housed here at the Red Cross's headquarters, is equipped with three terminals and several wall-mounted screens designed to aggregate and display the conversations about emergencies that are taking place across Twitter, blogs and a bevy of other social media sites.

By charting that activity and displaying it in a variety of visualizations such as heat maps and discussions sorted by community, the Red Cross hopes to use to glean valuable information about victims' needs that is often in short supply in the critical early hours of a natural disaster.

"During an emergency, information is like gold," said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross also envisions the curated social media data feeds as a tool to spot trends that could indicate where needs will arise in an emergency zone, and to engage with victims to connect them with food, water, shelter or other needs.

Dell Lends a Hand -- and Equipment, Services and Cash

Dell contributed equipment and consulting services to launch the new social media center, and has pledged a cash donation to support the project, continuing a two-decades-long partnership with the relief organization, according to Michael Dell, the company's founder, chairman and CEO.

Michael Dell Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern
Dell chairman and CEO Michael Dell and American Red Cross president and CEO Gail McGovern at the digital operations center at Red Corss headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Red Cross's new facility draws inspiration from a similar command center Dell set up in its Texas headquarters to monitor online conversations of interest to the company, opening a new channel of market intelligence and real-time engagement with social media users.

Dell's social media center, though still in its early stages, serves as something of a model for the Red Cross's new facility. Just as the company uses its social media aggregations to identify customers who need help, the relief organization is planning to tap the same tools to prioritize its own humanitarian efforts, which often involve the judicious allocation of scarce resources.

"I think we're just at the beginning of this," Dell said. "We're going to learn a whole lot more about how to use these tools, but there's no question this is going to aid the efforts of the American Red Cross, and I think it will be a blueprint for other similar organizations as they work to use technology like social media to enhance their efforts."

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