The Power of Social Media

The use of social media through apps such as Zello have made significant inroads into communications during emergency response situations such as recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to an article in Pacific Standard magazine. "While first responders and organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration originally cautioned against the use of social media for rescues, its inclusion by grassroots responders pointed to the value of access in immediate rescue," writes Rochaun-Meadows Fernandez. "Sites like Facebook and Twitter increased access for critical alerts to audiences who might not otherwise have been watching the news, and centralized information at a time where panicked citizens were often rationing energy for their devices."

The article points to the role of those with both large and small social media platforms in sharing information such as updates from emergency management officials and useful news to their followers. This, in turn, led government services to communicate with local residents with tools such livestreaming press conferences, tweeting and direct response for search and rescue efforts.