While social media platforms are often swamped with businesses trying to drum up revenue with sales and product releases, the real worth of these communication tools comes during the most difficult times.
Whether during wars and other internal conflicts—or natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy—the real-time power of social media is being used by citizens and government agencies alike to keep in touch with the world. The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii now even offers a FEMA-certified course for anyone looking to fully maximize “crisis communication.”
Handy tips for communicating during an emergency can be found here.
In the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in the northeastern U.S., the United States government and the nation’s largest wireless carriers urged residents in the area to text, not call friends and family with updates. Verizon Wireless suggested that doing this not only saves device battery life but it also frees up “wireless networks for emergency workers.”
During the 9/11 tragedy in New York City, wireless networks became overloaded with millions of people attempting to call loved ones. This resulted in first responders' facing enormous difficulties in communicating with each other to organize lifesaving operations.
When Hurricane Sandy began to lash the eastern U.S. on Sunday, particularly the areas of New Jersey and New York, mentions of Sandy through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram skyrocketed. USA Today reported that Radian6, who provides social media monitoring, detailed that in only a single day:
- 4 million mentions of #sandy by almost 400,000 unique Twitter users
- “Hurricane Sandy” was the top phrase on Facebook in the United States
- 233,000 #sandy photos were posted on Instagram, 100,000 under #hurricanesandy, and 20,000 under #Frankenstorm
Individual citizens may be using mobile devices and social media by choice to make their voices heard, but some of most popular media outlets online are being forced to do the same due to storm related website outages. Gawker, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Gizmodo are all hosted by New York-based Datagram, which suffered significant flooding damage from Sandy.
These sites are slowly coming back online, but at the time this story was written, many of them were alerting their fans and site visitors through Twitter and Facebook that service was still down, more than sixteen hours after their outages began.
A resident copywriter and editor for TechWell, SQE, and StickyMinds.com, Noel Wurst has written for numerous blogs, websites, newspapers, and magazines. Noel has presented educational conference sessions for those looking to become better writers. In his spare time, he can be found spending time with his wife and two sons—and tending to the food on his Big Green Egg. Noel eagerly looks forward to technology's future, while refusing to let go of the relics of the past.