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29 October 2012

Social media helps out during Hurricane Sandy

Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental By Rachel Hawkes

Google interactive map for Hurricane SandyThe east coast of America is currently bracing itself for the imminent impact of Hurricane Sandy, which was responsible for 66 deaths in the Caribbean.

As the US prepares to be safe and minimise the inevitable destruction that Hurricane Sandy will bring in her wake (which has been nicknamed Frankenstorm), social media has yet again proven to be a useful tool during a crisis.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was providing tips and checklists on how best to weather and survive Sandy via social media, and urged people to use social media to keep in contact with loved ones.  FEMA are also recommending Twitter accounts for those that may be affected in various cities to follow.

There are various hurricane mobile apps for people to download, so that they can track the approach of Sandy, and The American Red Cross app, called ‘The Hurricane’ (pictured below) enables users to automatically update Twitter, Facebook and their phone contacts with a simple message, “I’m safe.”  The app also allows people living outside of the US (or in unaffected parts of the country) to set up hurricane alerts for specific regions in case they have friends or family there.  There are training tools for people to see how prepared they might be if a hurricane might hit their area, as well as check-lists and things to do (make sure your car has a full tank of petrol), and the ability to look back 150 years of hurricane history for individual areas of the US.

American Red Cross Hurricane App has set up a Hangout on Google+ so that individuals can ask their questions to meteorologists via video chat, and Google has created an interactive map (pictured top right) that tracks Sandy’s path and enables people to find their nearest active shelter.  You can also choose to drill down further, viewing YouTube videos, images.  There has been many groups and community pages set up on Facebook, with numbers growing exponentially as Hurricane Sandy gets closer – the biggest is 21,214 people strong at the time of writing with one post having 597 shares and 174 comments (pictured below) in just two hours.  Although it is not clear who is managing the Page, and how accurate the information being shared is, it’s providing regular updates to all those concerned.

Hurricane Sandy Facebook Page

On Twitter, #Sandy is the hash tag to follow to keep up-to-date, and has been a trending topic locally, nationally and internationally since Sunday.

President Obama, who has cancelled campaign appearances along the East Coast has urged people in affected areas to follow FEMA for the latest information and advance on Hurricane Sandy.

Categories: Social media, News, Events

Tags: Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm, social media, FEMA, The Red Cross, hurricanes, emergency services

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