Sunday, May 8, 2011

Social Media in Disaster Relief

I’ve been amazed at the way in which social media has played a significant role in the dissemination of information during, and in the wake of the recent tornado outbreak in the south.

Here in East Tennessee, what was a fairly non-cohesive Twitter community, has turned into a thriving and successful disaster relief effort. By simply using the hashtag #CLEhelp or #CHAhelp (for the Cleveland and Chattanooga Tennessee area) Twitter has been responsible for seeing countless relief needs met. Everything from replacement chainsaw blades, batteries, food, volunteers and gas cards have shown up at a moments notice because of simple tweet request.

In the days following these deadly storms new twitter accounts and Facebook pages popped up all over the social media sphere. Many have made all the difference for grassroots volunteer groups struggling to do the work of cleanup and support. Even regional and national relief organizations have taken notice, and jumped into these ongoing conversations.

During the storms, local news and weather reports were shared instantly via social media. In most cases where power was lost, cell phone coverage was still available and mobile versions of sites, as well as text messages and tweets were still able to be received. Lives were no doubt saved by this fact.

Social Media’s role during these storms and the response to them are just another example of the power social media continues to gain in our society.

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