Social media played a key role in how people learned about and shared information regarding Hurricane Sandy. In particular, many individuals and governmental agencies used Twitter to offer practical advice, critical information and sometimes comfort to those most affected by the storm.
In New York City, for example, the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Emergency Management and the FDNY used their Twitter handles to disseminate important details to the public leading up to, during and after the storm. The FDNY’s social media manager is being applauded for responding to individuals during the height of the storm, alerting the nearest emergency personnel to problems, and advising on response time.
Local agencies weren’t the only ones utilizing the power of social media. FEMA recommended people turn to Twitter during the storm to communicate with authorities, particularly for those areas damaged by the storm. In one tweet from Oct. 29, they noted, “Phone lines may be congested during/after #Sandy. Let loved ones know you're OK by sending a text or updating your social networks.”
In the aftermath, the Red Cross, FEMA and local organizations continue to provide information and support to the public via social media. As the East Coast continues to piece mass transit and essential services together, local agencies like New Jersey Transit are using their social channels to keep passengers informed of the progress towards restoring full service.
Social media helped keep people informed and helped agencies coordinate during Hurricane Sandy. It will also have a role to play in the days to come. In fact, there are many ways to help those affected by the storm online, through social media and by phone. The Salvation Army has a page for donations, the Red Cross has a Facebook app, and several nonprofit organizations have launched text-to-donate campaigns.