Most of us have seen or read about the role that social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, played in the recent political revolutions in the Mid East. When oppressive governments shut down the traditional media channels, “social” channels rise to fill the void and keep people connected. The recent tsunami and nuclear incident in Japan is another example of people using social media to connect with others when traditional channels are down.
We can imagine that in distant countries, but we never imagine that happening here at home. Until last night.
As I write this, several states in the south are awakening to horrendous damage from a massive storm front that spawned more than 150 tornadoes across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina yesterday afternoon and last night. Alabama and Georgia were particularly hard hit with 150 dead in Alabama and 13 lives lost in Georgia. Tuscaloosa, AL and Ringgold, GA were tornado epicenters.
I have many friends in the areas impacted by these devastating storms. Many of them are among the more than 1 million people across the south without power. No TV, no radio, no internet access – except by mobile device.
I was very fortunate. I live in the City of Atlanta and all we experienced was heavy rain and strong winds. I did not lose power.
I was on Facebook as the storms began, and as these social groups do, many of us were posting storm updates from local news or the Weather Channel. Then I began to get messages from friends asking for specific information for their area via Facebook as they could access Facebook from their mobile devices after they lost power.
For a couple of hours, I was glued to the TV weather folks, and posted away on Facebook. One couple, good friends of mine, were very near the path of a huge tornado several miles south of Atlanta. I was updating them using text messages. Suddenly, I got a text from them saying that they thought they heard a tornado pass their small farm. This morning, it appears that is the case.
That couple has some damage to their property, with trees and some fences down. They still have no power, but I’ve just been looking at photos of their property that they are taking and posting to Facebook with a smart phone. They are using Facebook to let their friends and family know that they are OK and can show the photos of their damage.
We are Facebook messaging back and forth as I type this, as my friends are asking for more info about the damage in their vicinity. They are posting more photos and their friends and family are checking in, grateful that they are OK.
Some lessons learned:
1) When bad weather is approaching, establish contact with friends and family using your social networks. If you lose power, use your friends to \keep you updated via social networks or text on your mobile device.
2) Make sure that your laptops and mobile devices are fully charged before the storm arrives.
3) Have a car charger for your mobile devices. If you are without power after the storm passes, you can recharge your mobile devices from your vehicle.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by this horrendous storm.
What are your thoughts? Did you use your social networks to stay in touch during this massive weather event?