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Dell lends support to digital disaster recovery

The American Red Cross has enhanced its ability to respond to disasters with support from Dell to open a new digital operations center in north Texas.

The Red Cross embraced social media in a big way in 2012 when it became apparent that Twitter, Facebook and other digital communication methods were the first place people turn when disasters strike. The relief organization opened the Red Cross Digital Operations Center roughly two years ago in Washington, D.C. with support from Dell and now the two are working together to open the north Texas location.

Dell's donation will provide the Red Cross with computer equipment, funds and professional expertise to create the new Digital Operations Center and expand its Digital Volunteer Program. This donation follows Dell's grant to build and launch the national Digital Operations Center. Dell is also partnering with the Red Cross to provide real-time social-analytics software to aid the organization's health and safety preparedness efforts.

"We are grateful for Dell's donation to expand our local and national social media program. Recent disasters have shown us that having a better view of the social conversation can help the Red Cross anticipate needs and connect more people with help," said T.D. Smyers, CEO, American Red Cross North Texas Region. "The new listening center will also allow us to build a center of expertise through our digital volunteers who help provide social data for regional responses."
 
The American Red Cross North Texas Region was the first local chapter to use digital volunteers to assist its community during emergencies like the West, Texas explosion and tornadoes in Granbury and Cleburne. For more than a year, digital volunteers have focused on providing weather, preparedness and response information during emergencies of all sizes.

"Social listening and data solutions help our customers respond faster to their needs," said Trisa Thompson vp of corporate responsibility for Dell. "We are thrilled to expand our partnership with the American Red Cross and use our solutions and innovation services to help accelerate its humanitarian relief efforts across North Texas, also home to many of our Dell team members."

The national Digital Operations Center, powered by Dell, has enabled the Red Cross to connect more people with critical safety tips, relief information and emotional support during disasters. For example, before Superstorm Sandy made landfall, the Red Cross social team distributed information from the Digital Operations Center urging people to download the free Red Cross Hurricane app. The effort helped drive more than 400,000 downloads of the app.

After Sandy made landfall, the Red Cross used the Digital Operations Center in Washington, D.C. to collect more than two million public social media posts for analysis. For two months , more than 30 digital volunteers responded to thousands of individual posts through Facebook and Twitter. In nearly 90 cases, the Red Cross adjusted its services based on information gained through social data and the Digital Operations Center.

The latest grant from Dell is also helping the Red Cross expand its Digital Volunteer Program to train more people who will engage online with the public during emergencies. Digital volunteers are specially trained to use social media to engage with people who need help or emotional support and provide the Red Cross with real-time situational awareness. In the past 24 months, more than 160 people have been trained nationwide and have started working as digital volunteers.
The new Dell grant will enable the Red Cross to add an online, self-paced version of the digital volunteer training and expand the program to 10 Red Cross chapters across the nation. The Red Cross aims to add 200 additional digital volunteers by 2015.