5 Tips to Activate Your Emergency Social Media Plan

5 Tips to Activate Your Emergency Social Media Plan

In light of the recent natural disasters – East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – and September being National Preparedness Month, it’s a great opportunity to create or review your organization’s social media emergency plan.

With the mobile access to social media, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can be powerful tools for your organization in an emergency. You can quickly and efficiently communicate urgent messages to key constituents for the duration of an incident. Organizations can update on the fly from a mobile phone and have multiple people updated to keep the information flowing.

Emergencies don’t need to be big as a hurricane; it could be power outages or an urgent need for critical in-kind donations. Having a plan in place and updating it often allows you to go into action rather than making decisions.

Tips to Prepare:

  • Decide What Constitutes an Emergency – This is going to be different for each nonprofit.  For some it will only be major incidents like weather, flood or fire. Also think about what other events can shutter your organization or make it difficult to function. If your programs need a specific item to function, add that to your list of emergencies – shampoo and soap for a women’s shelter is a good example.
  • Physically Write Out a Plan – Write out the trigger points and action steps for an emergency situation. Also include go-to messages so you can cut and paste as needed. Decide who has authority to update your social media channels in an emergency.
  • Get the Plan Approved – Get your management and Executive Director to approve the plan ahead of time. That way everyone knows what will happen during an event and action can happen quickly.
  • Review Quarterly to Add New Social Media Tools – There is always new ways to use social media to reach audiences. Southwest Airlines used the photo community Instagram to post a reminder to check travel times during Hurricane Irene.

Southwest air - 5 Tips to Activate Your Emergency Social Media Plan

  • Create Emergency Social Media Handles – This handle can sit quiet without updates until you need it. Setting up handles isn’t hard, but it can take time. This can be incredibly effective mode of communication in an emergency to media and concerned constituents. This can also be helpful if the emergency lasts longer than a few days to keep people updated on the situation without clogging up your usual feed.

Ideas for Communicating in an Emergency:

  • All Clear – It’s a good idea to let your social media followers know just how affected you were by an emergency, even if there was no damage or problems. The Kennedy Krieger Institute did a good job during the East Coast earthquake with this quick update to its followers.

kennedy krieger tweet - 5 Tips to Activate Your Emergency Social Media Plan

  • Be Fast & Update Often – Jumping on an emergency and communicating often is the best way to quell rumors and fears. Even if you don’t have a ton of details of the situation, tell your followers that and when they can expect more details to emerge.
  • Photos & Videos – Show the damage of a disaster with photos and videos. With smartphone technology you have a reporter’s desk right in your phone. Use all the technology available to you share the urgent situation and get action.
  • Testimonials – Make sure to get messages from your employees, clients and donors about the emergency. Sharing other people’s perspectives is a great way to share the emotions of a crisis.
  • Ask for Support – This is a great time to activate your followers to support your organization as volunteers plus in-kind and monetary donations. You will need your social media followers to see the end of an emergency, put them to work with specific asks for support.

With social media you have a lifeline to people who want to support your organization in good times and bad. Activating this core group of supporters can be incredibly powerful for your organization. Plan for the worst, hope for the best and don’t lose that smartphone!

Ready to Discover a better Review Process?

Whether it’s in-person or virtual, Dawn will help your team uncover ways to make your team’s feedback process more efficient. 

Dawn is ready to speak at your next event!

An award-winning expert on nonprofit communications and creativity, Dawn is ready to speak at your next gathering. 

Kate Runy


A passionate technical wizard, Kate thrives on managing online content, social media for communications, and development projects.  Kate is the workhorse of the team, pulling out amazing feats of content creation and management week in and week out. 

Prior to joining BC/DC Ideas, Kate coordinated website and social media content, communications, and advertising for Go Global NC and Alzheimer’s NC.

Things that make her happy: I love animals about as much as I love working for nonprofits.

Mishel Gomez Cespedes


Mishel brings a passion for video storytelling and quippy social media content to the team.  At BC/DC Ideas, she is most likely editing video or scheduling the next moving social media post for our clients.

Her ear for storytelling is her greatest asset. Mishel has a unique ability to assemble content into a concise story that moves audiences to action.

A graduate of Wake Forest University she spent a semester in Spain and years serving her community through the campus organizations. Now, she is putting her passion for good to work.

Brian Crawford

creative director

Mix equal parts nerd and creativity and that’s Brian. A natural problem-solver, Brian’s ability to cut to the core of any problem helps guide our creative team to the correct solution without wasted time or money. It’s the core, this little nugget of truth, that helps our clients take the next step with their audiences.

Brian gets the greatest joy out of helping our clients realize and connect with their story. He is a true believer that everyone and every organization has a compelling story to tell, you just have to listen with an open heart.

Things that make him happy: Hanging out at the park with family, toddler-speak, hitting the focus pull, and good coffee.

Dawn Crawford


The engine behind BC/DC Ideas, Dawn has dedicated her career to good. Dawn brings her considerable experience and expertise to helping elevate the nonprofit sector. Our team’s lead strategist, Dawn is often seen leading our IdeaStorms, penning communications plans, or checking in with clients.

Before launching BC/DC Ideas in 2010, she earned her chops in 10+ years of communications leadership roles for public health, healthcare and youth-focused nonprofits. Working for nonprofits is Dawn’s dream job, and she loves that her 40+ hours a week make the world a better place.

Things that make her happy: A glass of champagne to celebrate big wins, Basecamp, living in the South, seeing the world, and a well-formatted spreadsheet.