Is Your Social Media Network Disaster Ready?

My grandparents survived the worst tornado in American history on March 18, 1925, when a mile-wide tornado ripped a 219 mile path of destruction across the Midwest, killing 695 people and destroying 15,000 homes.  It took days to learn who had lived or died.

When an F3 tornado struck Evansville on Sunday, November 6, 2005, killing 25 people, I thought of “The Tornado.”  Thank God we had cell phones and Internet access.

Evansville immediately responded.  Brad Gair of FEMA commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a community of people come out so quickly to help each other. All communities come together after a disaster, but this one is exceptional.”  

Every church and group sought ways to help. More people wanted to help than there were means for them to do so.

I was part of a homeschool network with an email list of over 200 families in 3 states.  A Yahoo group was our social network of choice; 5 years ago, grownups avoided Facebook.

For 2 weeks, our community turned its email list into Info Central.  Each of our families connected with its own network of faith and family, and we could share information quickly.  One mom was asked one evening to prep 500 sack lunches for relief workers.  Within 2 hours, we had a church kitchen and called for volunteers/donations.  The next morning, food poured in along with volunteers.  We prepped and packed 500 lunches for the Red Cross by 10 a.m.

With our network, we got information before it hit the news.  A dad told us who to call to get listed as a volunteer.  Once areas opened, we used our list to post requests for basic needs.  If someone heard of an elderly couple with a front  yard full of trees to be cleared, we posted it, and someone helped.  I think every call for help we heard was met.

What we did by email in 2005 was an early form of what Twitter and Facebook do today.  In future disasters, I foresee mobile stations arriving to help people charge smartphones and provide emergency wi-fi access for victims.

Facebook can be more than Farmville.  It is a vital link in disaster preparedness.  

Is your social network ready for the next disaster?

(Tornado photo courtesy of Stock Xchng.)

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4 Responses to “Is Your Social Media Network Disaster Ready?”

  1. Wendy Harman April 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    This is Wendy from the American Red Cross – thank you for recognizing how social technologies have enabled all of us to save lives in our communities. These are issues I think about all day and would love to have you as a resource/volunteer.

  2. marybiever April 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    Wendy, thanks for your kind words. Would be glad to talk with you any time. The better prepared we all are, the better. The real relationships we enhance via social media can help all our communities thrive, most especially in disaster situations.

  3. Talina of Harvest of Daily Life April 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    That is exactly why I’ve got my cell phone set up for device updates with twitter today. I don’t normally have twitter on my phone but I know that with potential power outages and whatnot it is a good idea.

    During the ice storm last year I found twitter to be extremely useful for getting and sharing info even with so many without power. We shared info about shelters for those in need, someone posted a request for a wellness check on someone who was living alone… Social media is a great tool in times of disaster!

    Hopefully today is a safe day for all in the area. I am worried about our little family, especially since we don’t have a basement :-(

  4. marybiever April 28, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    Talina, am so glad to have met you. You really get social media, and I’m so glad you live in Evansville. With the weather alerts and a plan, you can still prepare for a tornado, without a basement. Looking forward to getting to know you better.

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