Does Social Media Have A Place In Disaster Situations?

social media

Being able to obtain credible and factual information is extremely important in any disaster scenario. It doesn’t matter if it’s as commonplace as a winter storm or as out there as a global pandemic, without credible information you will have no idea how close disaster might be or when the situation has passed.


Although weather monitoring services, radio broadcasts and other official lines of communication have been used in disaster situations for a long time, it’s becoming increasingly evident that these mediums are not controlled by independent sources but by government. Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, or how far your trust of the government runs, as the old saying goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”


In today’s modern world where people have access to literally millions of sources of information at their fingertips, why would anyone rely only on 1 source, especially in as something as serious as a disaster scenario?


A wise man taught me a valuable lesson a long time ago. He said:

“If someone came up to you on the street and told you the sky was falling, you’d probably think he was crazy, but if 10 more people came up to you and said the same thing, I bet you’d look up.”


Social media has given everyone with a phone or internet access the ability to spread any kind of information they please. As I’m sure most of you know, this can be a double-edged sword at times when trying to identify factual information. However, if 10 people are all saying the same thing, it’s pretty likely that the information is accurate.


There have been numerous instances where social media has helped save lives during disaster scenarios. In the recent natural disasters that have hit the United States over the last few years, first responders and civilians alike in several cities were given advanced notice long before the disaster was even felt in their area simply because people in other areas took to Facebook and Twitter as soon as the storms touched down. This gave people in other cities time to prepare and in the process prevented untold loss of life and injury.


In one of our last articles we discussed preparing for tornadoes and how a smartphone could actually be an extremely useful prep item for communicating with loved ones in the aftermath of a disaster. As anyone that’s experienced even a relatively small winter storm, hurricane or tornado knows, getting a call through is virtually impossible. However, in moist cases internet connections will be largely unaffected.


Social media is so far advanced now that it’s very easy to use services like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with loved ones when you are unable to place a call. Before social media, disaster relief workers had to spend a significant amount of time establishing communication between victims and their families. Social media has largely replaced this task and has helped increase the efficiency of disaster relief efforts.


Less than a week ago, the largest tornado in the history of the state ravaged large parts of Illinois and left hundreds of victims in its wake. In the last week relief efforts have been continuing around the clock to make sure victims were given the most basic survival needs like shelter, food and water.


In the last week, the support for these communities and their citizens on social media platforms has been amazing. Dozens of Facebook pages, groups, twitter hash tags and various other alternative media outlets have exploded with people offering their help. In Washington, Illinois, one of the worst hit areas, local businesses have taken to Facebook to offer their goods and services to the disaster victims for no charge.


Thanks to these generous people, and the innovations of social media, everyday people are reaching out and providing a helping hand to the people that need it the most.

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