How To Use Social Media During a Natural Disaster

During Hurricane Harvey, the United States experienced its first social media storm. While the unthinkable was happening in Houston, people sprung into action all over the world to help online. For the first time, people were evacuated from danger by the power of technology. Now, three storms later, social media has become an essential tool during natural disasters. Here are some ways you can take advantage of social media to assure your safety in the midst of a natural disaster and/or emergency.

During Travel

Traveling during a natural disaster can be extremely stressful, but using social media to prepare can save you time and money. For information about flying, follow your airline, airport, TSA, and public figures in the area on Twitter. By tweeting or direct messaging those accounts you can get questions answered quickly and before you’ve gotten to the airport. Twitter is the best social platform for getting your information out to a large audience. During Hurricane Harvey people tweeted their location and others were able to connect them with local rescue teams. Designated hashtags like #sosharvey and #helphouston saved countless lives.

For Live Updates

Social media provides a constant stream of live updates during a natural disaster. Turn on your notifications for local news stations, law enforcement, public figures, and anyone in your area. You can use Instagram’s new location-based stories to see the totality of the destruction, potential safe spaces, and what other survivors are doing. Twitter is another great resource for finding people that are asking for help or lending a hand.

To Contact Family and Friends

During the event of a natural disaster, Facebook activates the Safety Check, which alerts your Facebook friends of your safety once you check in. You may have seen the Safety Check on your feed after the Vegas shooting, Hurricane Irma, or currently, the fires throughout California. Google has a similar tool called the Person Finder, and the American Red Cross has Safe and Well. These safety checks give your family members peace of mind if you’re unable to call or text them.   

To Inform

During a natural disaster the government, news stations, airlines, and law enforcement aren’t the only way you can receive real-time information. If you find yourself in the middle of a natural disaster, you can use social media to inform others of what’s happening on the ground. People in Puerto Rico have been using social media to show the devastation and plead for additional aid after Hurricane Irma. A call to action from the ground can spur donations to the relief effort and political attention.

To Fundraise 

Maybe you weren’t directly hit by an emergency or natural disaster but you want to help. Gone are the days of googling how you can help, today social media is the go-to authority on finding ways to give. Celebrities often use their large social followings to help raise money for people in need during emergencies. Even if you don’t have a million followers, you can spread the word to your friends via Instagram stories, Twitter and Facebook. Whether you want to donate money, goods, or blood, social media has resources readily available.

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