No one doubts the destructive nature of storms, especially tornadoes. What is not so widely known is the ability of social media to help prevent loss of life in storm-prone areas and to help communities re-build after a storm has devastated the region.
But this is changing rapidly.
Recently, following the tragedy in Joplin, Missouri, where a tornado cut a three mile swath through the city and killed more than 100 people, folks turned to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to check on loved ones and look for help.
The power of social media to tap the crowd, to leverage forces for good to help those in need, is unmatched in human history. Now more than ever human beings have a way to reach out and help their neighbors.
What impact this will have on you, I don’t know. The impact it will have on the world, however, seems to be far reaching. And we have only scratched the surface.
Laura Sauriol was crouched in her Bunyan Road basement, waiting for the tornado to pass, when she started a Facebook group that would become the go-to website for the relief effort in Monson.
Never mind that she is only 17, and that parts of her town were pummeled by the tornadoes that raced through Western and Central Massachusetts in the late afternoon of June 1.
With no access to telephones, the Internet became a resource, and her friends began posting tornado updates – where it struck, the hardest-hit areas, if loved ones were OK.
A week later, “Monson Tornado Watch 2011” on Facebook has 2,000 members and is a whirlwind of activity. Volunteers are offering their services, and others are advertising what’s needed to help the community recover.
Sauriol isn’t the only person who has seized the power of social media to help in tornado-relief efforts.
The United Way of the Pioneer Valley has been using a Facebook page and its own website – www.uwpv.org – to line up volunteers with ways they can help across the region.
The Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross is using its Facebook page, which it had long before the tornadoes struck, to provide regular daily updates on its relief efforts, and the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley (“West Springfield: RAPV Tornado Relief” and “16 acres: RAPV Tornado Relief”) launched a humanitarian effort to rebuild and find housing for tornado victims across the region.
Karen King, of the Karen King Group at ReMax Prestige, lives in Monson, and began the Facebook page, “Monson Homes available for Tornado Victims,” to help connect her neighbors who lost their homes with new housing. She has helped 11 families find new places to live.
Then, additional Realtors’ association Facebook pages were added, she said. “All the Realtors are getting together to do what they can for the affected families,” King said.
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