Social Media and natural disasters
Like many people today I have been avidly following the events in the US and the path of destruction as Sandy stormed across the East coast. The constant stream of live tweets on the BBC and regular video posts enables people across the globe to follow events as they happen and stay up to date with what is going on all in live time. My end it also made me realise when I started seeing the first images of just how major this storm was – I had had no idea.
If you know me or have read some of my blogs on here or my blogs on www.hopeforstrays.com you will realise I am a huge animal lover and natural disasters can be very distressing not only because of the human suffering but also the animal suffering. Animals are often the forgotten victims of disasters and authorities underestimate the attachment, and value, that some people place on their animals. As a result of the internet I am aware of some of the very upsetting images and stories from Katharina a few years ago. One of the big learnings from then was the number of people who refused mandatory orders to evacuate because they were not able to take their animals. Some of these people died as a result and others ended up having to be rescued at considerable expense.
Those who do not love animals may not understand this. I know from my own experience, but also from may Facebook friends, how very dear animals can be, not least because of the amazing comfort and support they bring to people with illnesses. I know of a few people who are adamant they would not be alive today if it were not for their pets’ support during tough moments in their lives. These animals become a member of the family and therefore is it really that hard to understand that someone would under no circumstances leave their animal behind?
Today this factor was again emphasised by people refusing to leave without animals – this time in New Jersey. One of my Facebook friends, who I will call Mika, posted that she had received the mandatory order to evacuate but was refusing to leave without her pets. The rest of today was then spent constantly checking her wall for updates. As always the outpouring of support and concern was amazing and then finally an hour ago an update come – not from Mika herself (she was without electricity and low on mobile battery) but from another friend who had got through to her. Mika was safe and well as were the animals. Facebook has become such an important communication channel that Mika’s friends first thing after the call was to post on Mika’s wall and share the news.
Another friend from the UK now living in NYC also kept her friends and family constantly updating with live news via her Facebook page. Whereas once I would have been putting the news on to check what was being reported now I go to Facebook. I get the latest news here from friends who are there live. It also means I can check that in times of emergency friends are safe.
Facebook did however also play another critical role in today’s disaster. News and information was shared quickly with people who needed to know. The image below for example was posted to Mika’s wall and has been going round Facebook. It is actions like this that hopefully can save lives – in emergencies having access to the latest information can mean a matter of life or death.
Fortunately after today’s drama it looks like a happy ending for all my US friends . . . and another win for social media!