In June of 2013 Alberta experienced the worst flooding in their history. Many cities and towns in central and southern Alberta were affected. 100,000 people were displaced. The water in High River came up so fast that 150 people had to be rescued from their rooftops.
With the waters rising so suddenly and quickly there was just not enough time for traditional media sources to reach people. Luckily we had social media to the rescue.
Residents from all over the province were tweeting and using Facebook to spread information to their communities. What was perhaps just a novelty in the past, social media is now a seriously useful tool to reach communities quickly. The City of Calgary was one of the most active twitter accounts during the flood. Mayor Nenshi gained 28,261 followers in the days after the flood. He was so active on social media, that the public recognized he wasn’t sleeping and started the hashtag #nap4nenshi.
Twitter and social media provided information on almost everything. They supplied users with information on relief centers, evacuation zones and even places where evacuees could get free food. When the City of Calgary website crashed, people just turned to twitter for their information. Displaced residents couldn’t always get to a television or radio, but social media made it easy to access the news from their phones.
Once the flooding had subsided the great task of cleaning up had to be handled. Social media had an answer for that one too. Facebook pages popped up organizing cleanups for each neighborhood. The city needed to recruit 600 volunteers to meet at McMahon Stadium to help people re-enter their communities. 7000 people showed up. Social media helped empower volunteers to help out in their community.
Alberta’s social media blitz during a natural disaster is not rare. Almost all cities are using social media during a disaster especially when phone lines get busy and websites see too much traffic. Social media is evolving to become a major tool in disaster response, not just in Alberta, but globally. Perhaps we have entered a new era of disaster response – the social media era.
Check out this infographic for more information on social media during the Calgary flood!