The American Red Cross is using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools in a bid to raise money to help those effected by the recent floods and tornadoes in both the US and further afield.

Senior specialist for interactive media, Wendy Harman, created the Facebook page to collect donations and raise awareness of the plight of the recent earthquake in China.

The organisation has also created an online newsroom, powered by the WordPress blogging tool, that is dedicated to providing information on flood damages. Originally designed to provide updates to the national media, the newsroom now includes new features such as links to audio clips from volunteers and victims that are posted to the organisation's Twitter channel. The recordings are made using the Utterz multimedia blogging site, which relays the messages to Twitter. They can be heard via PCs or mobile phones.

Other Web 2.0 tools the American Red Cross has employed include a Google Maps mashup that shows where the organisation is working and a presence on photo-sharing site Flickr and Google's YouTube.

The American Red Cross uses its main blog to post updated lists of shelters and food and supply distribution sites in the US. While some of the tools were created for the latest bout of floods in midwest America, such as the Google Maps mashup, others have been used over the past year-and-a-half as the organisation tapped free, easy-to-use tools to help its workers and to inform the public of their work.

"[The Google Maps mashup] is a good way to visualise in an interactive way our response," Harman said. "Once you see all those pins on a map you say, 'Wow.' It is a pretty alarming visual. I think that is why it has resonated."

"The original goal was to try to provide that real-time information so we don't have to spend our personal capital answering phone calls," Harman added. "It has grown into a bigger project than that. Our audience has grown internally across the American Red Cross. Our employees and volunteers across the country have been very interested in following it. All these tools are super simple. We're trying to bring them together to tell our story."

In the future, the agency plans to expand its use of the various Web 2.0 tools, she added. For example, while it now uses Twitter to provide links to the audio clips from Utterz, the agency would like to be able to use Twitter to provide updates on shelter locations during a disaster. Twitter, Harman noted, would be a good tool for this function because users can receive updates called Tweets on mobile devices if they cannot access a PC.

"We have recognised the importance of being able to get information out to the public very quickly and accurately," she added. "We've pinpointed these tools as ones that make it easy for us to do that."