How Social Media Can Help When Disaster Strikes


The powerful earthquake that recently hit Iran was also felt in many other countries in the Middle East, including UAE, and it scared millions of people in the region. However, the aftermath of such a disaster is often more scary and nerve-wrecking than the few seconds of shaky buildings and furniture or destructions. This is when worries start to strike the mind. We think about our families and loved ones and whether they are fine. We wonder whether the disaster will remind of its power again. Unfortunately even the most innovative technologies are still unable to prevent these events from happening. Nevertheless, over the last couple of years they have become a helpful tool in times of desperation and fear caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, floods and etc.

Social media, in particular, seems to be the most useful technology tool during disaster aftermaths. Today, billions of people all over the world have profiles in more than one social website. The online social media community is larger than countries like China and India which have populations of over 1 billion people. Probably, that first became clear after the 7.2 earthquake in Turkey two years ago. Tens of thousands of people in the country turned to social networks for help and many managed to find it. In contrast, after the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, people relied not on social networks or emails, but on analogue and satellite phones.

But why is social media so helpful in such times and how can you use it to your advantage? Here are few things you can do on social websites when disaster strikes:

  • Connect with People – Social networks and websites in general are often a more reliable way to contact your family and friends and check if they are ok. That is because telephone lines can easily be disrupted due to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, for instance.
  • Find Missing People – If the person you are trying to contact with does not respond to your messages, then you can ask other users for help. Simply give a description of the one you’re are searching for or upload a picture of him or her. Then ask users in the area to share it among their friends. That can even work faster than rescue teams. However, make sure you add hashtags to your message. It is better to include the disaster and the region in which the missing person should be (e.g. #earthquake, #Dubai).
  • Make Requests – The government may a have hard time working on all levels and in all areas at the same time. In other words, don’t wait for someone to pay you the attention you need. Instead, use social media. Ask for things that you need like food, clothes, insulin, diapers or shelter. Again, use hashtags.
  • Stay Informed – News travel faster on the web and even faster on social websites. Moreover, the reports posted on these networks are often more accurate than those offered by the media. In addition, try to find and to connect to the social profiles of governmental organizations to receive official and vital information like emergency phone numbers.
  • Share Information – After you are sure that things with you and your family are fine, continue to stay connected via social websites. Switch roles and become a reporter. Share what you have experienced and upload pictures and videos of the aftermath in your area. That will help other users stay informed.
  • Offer Help – You can also try helping those in need. For instance, you can respond to request for food and water or you can offer assistance to anyone who may need it. Another thing you can do is simply share posts about missing people. That is also very important.

All in all, social media should not be perceived solely as means of entertainment. The online social community can be powerful, effective and united in times of a disaster.


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