This past weekend many of us watched as the great state of Texas was struck by Hurricane Harvey and inundated with torrential rain causing catastrophic flooding throughout the region. Facebook activated their Safety Check for Hurricane Harvey in the early hours on Saturday. Here are three stories on Social Media that I wanted to highlight:
Calls For Help Sent Over Social Media
The City of Houston Twitter account sent out this message early in the day of August 27:
911 services at capacity. If u can shelter in place do so, a few inches in your home is not imminent danger. Only call if in imminent danger
— City of Houston (@HoustonTX) August 27, 2017
Scrolling through the replies to that tweet I found a number of them that were people sending information because they were unable to get through to the 9-1-1 system. I compiled a few of them into a Twitter Moment:
Reading a few of the above, this is one of the reasons why your agency really needs a Social Media Team who’s responsibilities include the capacity to monitor Social Media for these types of replies. There are times when phone lines are inaccessible but data transmission remains and people will use what they have available. At this point in our society’s immersion into the networked services, to not actively monitor Social Media borders on dereliction of duty.
While it is true that Social Media acts as a great bullhorn, the very nature of it is interaction. By only using it as a broadcast medium your agency is both limiting its potential and your ability to be effective in times of crisis.
Coast Guard Does Not Monitor Social Media
The message here is clear, the US Coast Guard does NOT monitor Social Media for calls for help.
Coast Guard says do NOT use social media to contact them.
If you need them, call 281-464-4854 pic.twitter.com/4QDUESchtn
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) August 27, 2017
As much as I think agencies operating in a disaster area needs to monitor their Social Media, I have to respect the US Coast Guard for broadcasting that they are NOT monitoring their Social Media. Interestingly enough, a number of interviews with the boat rescuers referenced their response to a call on Facebook. There were a few rescuers who acknowledged that they were taking addresses through Facebook postings.
Although I think agencies should be monitoring their Social Media channels, if that isn’t in your plans or budget to do so make sure that you communicate that.
Flooded Nursing Home Patients Rescued
This tweet with the photo of patients stranded in a nursing home as water climbed went viral…
La vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson Texas is almost underwater with nursing home patients pic.twitter.com/oCNkrgoRZY
— Timothy J. McIntosh (@DividendsMGR) August 27, 2017
ABC13 reports that the residents of the nursing home were rescued. Many people questioned the authenticity of the photo online, but it has been confirmed to be authentic. The nursing home was in Dickson, Texas which is a community very hard hit by flooding and was featured on national news networks as a location with a high volume of water rescues performed.
There have been a number of comparisons to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. One of the casual observations being made was the speed in which everything seemed to be going, considering the night prior people went to bed in dry homes and woke up to three feet or more of water in their living rooms.
One of the accelerators to the response has, in my opinion, undoubtedly been the social networks and the Social Media being generated on them. While the extra-connected level of our lives at times seems to be a burden and warp our perspective on things, it is hard to discount its ability to quickly mobilize a flotilla of vessels to perform water rescues that in other similar circumstances would have taken days to mount.