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Science, Health, Tech

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg talks disaster management in Delaware

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Courtesy of University of Delaware
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UD's Jim Kendra and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg talk about the Disaster Research Center's work.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg was in Delaware Monday, meeting with officials from Delaware Emergency Management Agency, University of Delaware and several nonprofits.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said he talked with state officials about responding to natural disasters. He said Facebook has ways to help – like fundraising tools and a way to check in with friends or relatives in danger. 

"Disaster response is an area where Facebook is in a unique position to help keep our community safe," he wrote.

Jim Kendra, the director of UD’s Disaster Research Center, said he believes those tools will become more effective with time, as more people learn about them.

“I think where Facebook has an advantage is because people are so familiar with Facebook in general, so it’s not that they have to learn to use a separate emergency management tool or application, it’s just another feature of something that they’re already very familiar with,” Kendra said.

Kendra says after meeting with Zuckerberg, he’s curious about how Delaware can bring together science, arts and policy to think about and resolve environmental risks.

Many state agencies use Facebook to disseminate information out to the public DEMA director A.J. Schall said his agency often uses it for “situation reports, weather watches and warnings.”

“…If there’s information about shelters, if there’s information about what people can do to prepare – just so they have an official link to this message,” Schall said. “Sometimes they’re going to get an official message quicker than they do through radio, TV or other areas.”

Zuckerberg mentioned three tools Facebook has to help people through disasters. One is a community-help feature tool that helps volunteers get food supplies to people in need. Another has people in a disaster-stricken area “check in” to notify their Facebook friends they are safe. A third helps people raise money for organizations.

Schall said these tools are a great way to add muscle to DEMA’s preparedness, but they won’t replace what DEMA already does. He said the tools could be used in Delaware if needed, in addition to emergency response tactics already in place.

Zuckerberg visited Delaware as part of his 2017 New Year's resolution to meet with people in every state in the USA by the end of the year. Before 2017, he had been to about 20 states.

Zuckerberg's Facebook post about Delaware:

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