• website;
  • disasters;
  • nonprofit;
  • emergencies;
  • voluntary
  • Relief services for victims and others affected by emergencies and disasters are essential during these events and are often provided by nonprofit and voluntary organizations. The focus of this study was to assess informational communications provided through websites, focusing on emergency and disaster relief to determine if they communicated information with maximum effectiveness. The availability of information provided on these websites can directly affect how victims and the public are served. American Red Cross (ARC) chapters provided a convenient sample for study. We identified 646 ARC chapters in the United States; homepages were located for 588 (91.0%). We reviewed each homepage to document the availability (or absence) of nine elements recognized as being important for improving communications related to the provision of disaster and emergency services. ARC chapter website homepages had a mean of 3.4 (± 1.4) communication elements. Providing four examples, 74.3% included the organization's phone number, 32.0% provided links to other organizations involved in disaster response, 23.0% allowed visitors to sign up for automatic alerts or notifications, and 16.5% listed an email address for their organization. Emergencies and disasters are unpredictable. Having more communication elements available increases the likelihood that individuals affected by such events will connect with an organization's website and receive services. We suggest that our nine communication elements be considered when an organization develops or updates its homepage. Such contents can reinforce an organization's communication efforts by providing a recognizable source of consistent and reliable information for people experiencing emergency or disaster situations.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.