Natural calamities have become rampant in the past few decades, and their occurrence is expected to surge in the future. The planet has been hit by fatal disasters such as Hurricane Katrina which occurred in the US in 2005, flooding in Louisianan in 2016, Volcanic eruption in Guatemala in 2018, earthquakes in Haiti in 2010, the heatwave in Pakistan in 2018, floods in Nigeria in 2018 and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines that claimed more than 6000 lives in 2013.
Communication plays a pivotal role in disaster management. Unfortunately, most conventional communication channels are vandalized or unreachable during calamities. Due to easy access through smartphones, social media has played and continues to play a critical role in disaster response prior, during, and after the tragedy. Social networks help the affected families to seek food, transport, and shelter aid from the well-wishers as well as enabling people to contact friends and relatives in affected areas and mobilize resources to assist the victims.
Use of Social Media in Three Phases of a Calamity
Prior to a disaster, social media plays a critical role in warning the residents about the imminent calamity. During this phase, governmental and non-governmental organizations can post on various networking channels to create awareness of the safety procedures, where to get help in case affected, and reassuring the public that the agencies are doing their best to mitigate the tragedy. For instance, before the Sandy Storm in 2012, the National Hurricane Center used Facebook to sensitize the residents about the hurricane progression and the areas that were likely to be affected.
The efficient flow of information is paramount during the natural calamity, and social media has always risen to the occasion. Social networking enables users to share safety tips and request help from the relevant authorities. For example, social media was used to collect and spread data concerning the floods a flood event in Wuhan City, China, in 2016, where 14 people perished, 167,897 residents were displaced, and 370 buildings destroyed. “The usage of social media during the flood event improved the velocity, credibility, and richness of information related to the flood and met public demands to know more about the state of affairs regarding the flood.”
Social networks play a critical role during the recovery phase to inform the public on the form of aid needed, tracing the victims, the region most devastated by the calamity, and update on what the agencies are doing to address the situation. Facebook, for example, introduced a ‘Safety Check‘ feature in 2014, which enable individuals in the affected regions to mark themselves safe after a calamity. The feature has been deployed in a number of disasters, such as during Afghanistan earthquakes, Typhoon Ruby, and Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Social media is also used to mobilize the resources required to assist victims during the recovery process. Twitter and Facebook are often used to raise charity funds from well-wishers and inviting volunteers to offer various humanitarian services. After the earthquake disaster in Nepal, the Non-Resident Nepali Association Australia created a page named ‘Victorians Stand Together for Nepal,’ which helped in mobilizing resources to assist the victims. Large volumes of blankets and clothes were received, and the drive raised $583,758.
Due to easy accessibility, social media plays a crucial role during a natural disaster. Social networks are important in raising awareness, sharing safety tips, mobilizing humanitarian aid, and building public confidence in the relevant agencies. Social media also helps in tracing the victims of a disaster and enables friends and relatives to check on each other through features such as Facebook’s ‘Safety Check.’ Finally, what are the limitations of social media use during calamities?
Use of Social Media during Calamities/ #‘Victorians Stand Together for Nepal/ https://bit.ly/3eak7XK
How to use social media effectively during Calamities #naturaldisasters #flood #savetheworld/ https://bit.ly/3eak7XK