Today’s guest post is from Evan Thrailkill. Evan is an upcoming senior at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is majoring in psychology and hopes to pursue a career in student affairs either working in student housing or with student organizations. In his free time Evan enjoys playing around with new technology and gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @Evanbt.
It is crazy to me just how much Facebook, Twitter and OrgSync have revolutionized the way we handle life. I am amazed how much social media has come into play during the recent natural disaster, the tornados that hit Alabama. Ten years ago, during a tornado, I can remember being found in the basement of my house tirelessly watching to see when the storm would pass. However, for the recent storms, I was listening to Internet radio on my phone and looking at pictures that people were tweeting from across campus and across the state. The most intriguing part of this whole experience is that all this information was being shared in real-time. The following is how Twitter, Facebook and OrgSync were utilized during this disaster to share information and for continued relief efforts.
Numerous reporters, including The Weather Channel, were tweeting pictures constantly during and after the storm. A couple of examples are below:
The following tweet was sent by James Spann, a TV meteorologist for ABC 33/40 based in Birmingham, Alabama:
At least 40 deaths in Alabama today #alwx
Additionally, Mr. Spann noted on Twitter, “My stream has evolved into one that is matching groups or people with tornado relief needs with those who can meet those needs. The strength of social media has proven to be remarkable in the past week as I have watched it work.”
Facebook was a huge factor in the disaster relief effort. Facebook groups such as “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” were used to help reunite family and friends. Currently the page has over 100K likes and is still active.
Also groups such as “Pets lost or found after April 27, 2011 Alabama Tornadoes” helped reunite lost pets with their owners, including Bear (pictured below), who was reunited with his family.
Facebook groups were also created to allow students to spring into action. Katelyn Armstrong, Student Advocate for the UAB Student Government Association, created the Facebook group Blazers for Birmingham. This was created to secure volunteers to spring into action when the cleanup began. Armstrong wanted to secure around 100 volunteers. Within the first hour it was created, the page had 75 “likes” and by the end of the week more than 600 students had joined the group.
Finally, shortly after the disaster, the USGA Student Advocate and I worked on an OrgSync news post, which went out to every student at UAB. This news post explained ways for students to get involved and help in the Birmingham Community. We included a link to the “Blazers for Birmingham” Facebook group as well as links to the “Hands on Birmingham” specific sites that students could volunteer at. The morning after we also send out community wide text messages to the Fraternities and Sororities, Student Government, and the Residence Hall Association explaining how to spring into action and help. OrgSync proved to be a major communications tool when combined with our other social media outlets. Since all student organizations are required to register through OrgSync this was a very efficient way to contact many students and keep them updated on opportunities to help their community and the disaster relief.
Do you have any interesting stories to share about social media being utilized during the recent tornadoes in Alabama? Leave your comments below.