Our area has been hit with near constant rain for the past few days in the aftermath of what was once Hurricane Lee.
As I write this, I’m keeping one eye on some water in my basement, and the other on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. For anyone who is in the Central PA area (Lancaster, Harrisburg, York, Lebanon, etc.) nearly every status update or tweet is storm related. Harrisburg has received a reported 13+ inches of rain in the past 24 hours, while Lancaster has 7+ during that same time period.
What I’m seeing is a veritable flood of information about the flood.
And I’m thinking back to my childhood in the seventies growing up outside of Philadelphia. When there was any sort of severe weather, we would get up and immediately turn the radio on. And because this was in the Philadelphia area, and the stations covered much of Southeast PA, South Jersey, and Delaware, they couldn’t list every school by name, so they used a number system. Each school was assigned a number: our school district was 311. We would listen eagerly to the long list of numbers coming out of the announcer’s mouth:
307, 308, 310…
Hoping that the next number would be 311. With a closing, not just a delay.
Today, we don’t have to wait.
Facebook and Twitter are being used by schools, businesses, and media outlets to report all the latest closures, delays, and other weather related news.
Those who had to venture out onto the flooded roads were able to use Twitter to report closed roads, or even provide good directions to those who seemed to be stranded. I was able to see which schools were closed, right from their own Facebook pages. Even the college two blocks away reported how they were handling the situation:
Even the local utilities are using Social Media outlets to keep their customers up to date on outages and emergency procedures. And area businesses are reporting their closings and delayed openings. I’ve even seen a number of downtown Lancaster businesses talking back and forth on Facebook and Twitter as they seek to make informed decisions about whether to open or not, and sharing all sorts of information and ideas.
This kind of information saves us a lot of time and grief. And when I think about how bad the flooding is in this area, with several deaths reported, I try to remember life before Social Media and cell phones. We didn’t have this near-instant access to such important information. I can only imagine that the damage from this flooding would be far worse, as our access to this info helps to protect us, and eases the burden on emergency workers.
The availability of Social Media, in conjunction with mobile technology, has completely changed the way we live our lives and do business, and this is no more evident than during times of natural disaster. Over the past few months we’ve seen this with tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes. Near instant updates. It’s mind boggling.
And I love seeing how people are offering to help each other online as they hear about broken down vehicles and flooded basements.
This is the kind of crowdsourcing of information and aide that keeps me excited about Social Media. For me, this is what proves the ROI of Social Media. It’s what proves to me that it “works”, when handled and used properly.
So if you’re in my area, stay dry, and stay tuned to Social Media. There’s a lot of great information out there!
Photos courtesy of Megan S. Barto.
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