Sunday, October 28, 2012

#Hurricane #Sandy and Social Media

As I type this, I'm looking out my apartment window at the Hudson River, which is likely to rise up and flood portions of my neighborhood in the next 36 hours, pushed by 70 mph gusts of wind. Like many up and down the Atlantic Coast, I am turning to social media for news and support, and once again I am reminded how important social communications have become to daily life.

Here are some ways social media can help in the coming days as Hurricane Sandy affects the eastern seaboard:

  • Alert friends and family: The most simple and obvious use for social media is to let others know what is happening. A simple tweet or Facebook post is sufficient to let hundreds of concerned friends and family know you are in one piece. The American Red Cross has a Hurricane app you can download to your Android or iPhone, including features for alerting loved ones you are safe. The phone app also includes checklists for protecting yourself and your home, features to turn your phone into a flashlight or strobe light and methods for finding nearby shelters. The Red Cross also offers a way to register yourself as "safe and well" so that others can search and find your status.
  • Ask for help:  Of course, if you are not safe and in need of assistance, social can also help there. When emergencies strike, phone lines can be compromised and emergency phone centers can become overloaded. So long as your phone is charged and mobile service is available, you can always tweet for help--many local emergency government offices have twitter handles, and you can always enlist your Twitter and Facebook friends for assistance. Following last year's Japanese earthquake, U.S. Ambassador John Roos used Twitter to communicate with Americans in Japan; upon learning of eighty people trapped in a hospital, he alerted authorities. "It was incredibly effective," he said of Twitter.
  • Stay informed: Twitter is an incredible hub of information right now. Here are some accounts to follow to keep up to date about evacuations, mass transit suspensions and other important information:
  • Watch for #Hashtags: There is no such thing as a hashtag issuing authority, which means they tend to spring up organically. Already dozens of different localized and topical hashtags are in use, such as #sandypets, #sandynj, #nhsandy and #sandycenpa. In this year's Colorado wildfires, spontaneous hashtags appeared (such as #HighParkFire and #FlagstaffFire) to keep people informed about fire status and support needs. 
For other good tips, check out USAA's "Why You Need a Social Media Disaster Plan." If you have other social media tips to help prepare for Sandy, please share them. And if you have an interest in how I am faring in Jersey City, NJ, feel free to follow me at @augieray


Nords said...

I read a few thousand tweets last night during the Hawaii tsunami, and luckily almost everyone defaulted to "#tsunami". I guess the trending hashtags will crowd out the special-purpose and "more creative" ones.

I hope Twitter fixes their list feature, but I wonder if it's overwhelmed by users trying to assemble lists. You're right, it's the only way to filter out the comedians and the "OMG!!" groupies. During the tsunami it only took a few tweets from a user to figure out who was on the North Shore and who was on the Mainland.

TV news, even streaming on a website, was useless. Twitter & webcams were crowdsourcing the news for the TV stations while their crews were stuck in traffic, blocked by police barricades, or just talking story in the studio.

During last year's tsunami our phone rang several times. Last night we only needed two Facebook posts, a couple of tweets, and two e-mails. No phone calls.

Hang in there, Augie. Fill your bathtub, and use your batteries slowly!

Augie Ray said...

Thanks, Nords. Glad the tsunami warning didn't become anything worse. Hoping the same is true of our friend, Sandy, now.

Bathtub filled. Batteries charged!