How Social Media is Saving Lives Amid Natural Disaster

Side-by-side images of Houston before and after Hurricane Harvey to emphasize the importance that social media is saving lives.

There was once a time when the extent of Twitter’s functionality was telling friends what you ate for breakfast. Those days are long since over. Social media is saving lives of hurricane victims by providing a means of communication in areas where phone lines have been severed.

During the recent disasters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, wait-times were said to be upward of 45 minutes to get through to emergency services.

In other words, calling for help is not an option if you can’t access a phone charger. The ability to get a message out instantaneously online has been an invaluable tool for rescue workers in times of crisis.

NPR reported that flood victims in Houston took to Twitter and Facebook to disclose their locations and solicit help of rescuers when they were unable to get through via phone. From here, volunteers found these requests online and called and instructed 911 operators on their behalf.

Unsurprisingly, local news stations reported that social media is saving lives of Hurricane Irma victims in a similar way.

With no cell service, many were left frantically searching for the whereabouts of loved ones. Facebook groups quickly formed in order to reconnect friends and families who were separated by the storm in Florida. Additionally, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature, which allows users to declare themselves “safe” during times of emergency.

Not only does the internet help people in dire situations, but social media is saving lives by keeping people out of these situations too.

The internet has become so integrated into today’s society that it’s the first place people turn when disaster strikes. Facebook and Twitter were valuable sources of information during the chaos by informing people of which areas they should evacuate and when. Simply put, if you can access a charged phone or computer, the power of social media can be your greatest ally.