GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Social media is playing a big role in helping people in the wake of Harvey, which was a Category 4 hurricane when it slammed into the Gulf Coast in Texas on Friday and has led to severe flooding.
With 911 dispatch centers in the Houston area inundated with calls, people are posting their locations online and local news stations are sharing to help save lives.
The last time Houston was hit by a major hurricane was Ike in 2008.
“At the very dawn of Facebook,” said Matt Aufdenspring, the digital manager for Houston NBC affiliate KPRC. “The iPhone had been out for a year or so.”
Twitter was less than two years old and it was nowhere near as popular as it is today.
“This is the first big storm for us where we’ve had Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” Aufdenspring said.
He said social media has been a huge help as rescuers respond to Harvey.
“Officials have asked our reporters to get the word out to people, if there’s anybody who has a boat and has experience driving a boat and can bring it here to help with the rescues or they needed fuel for their own police boats — they didn’t have a whole lot of fuel — and complete strangers were showing up and delivering fuel to these guys,” he explained.
Most of the aid is being coordinated online. Twitter has been at the forefront. Aufdenspring said a tweet helped save a group stuck in waist-deep water a senior citizen home.
“One of the grandsons of one of the residents there tweeted a photo and it immediately went viral,” Aufdenspring explained.
KPRC retweeted the post and law enforcement was tagged. Soon, others retweeted it.
“Sure enough, they (first responders) made it a priority and went and rescued these 15 senior citizens from the nursing home,” said Aufdenspring.
He said similar stories have been playing out all over the region. People are posting their address and cries for help. When law enforcement can’t make it, fellow citizens are showing up.
“I’m sure just like in Grand Rapids, here in Houston, when we have an event like this it’s devastating, but at the same time you really get to see the cities true colors come out and that sense of community arises and people want to help,” he said.