On 29 September, 2009 Tropical Storm Ketsana (also known as Ondoy) caused devastating floods in the Philippines. As Ketsana moved away, the destruction left behind in the Philippines became apparent. The death toll stood at 246 people, with many more missing. In addition to this the devastation also left some 450,000 people displaced.
This is a terrible tragedy but what is undeniable is that while all the devastation was taking place social media sites were used to maximum effect. Not only were they used to share information about the storm but also to report rescue efforts and emergency cases in disaster-struck areas. The internet became a major platform by those affected by the crisis who found they had no other means by which to be heard.
As telephone networks became clogged Twitter and Facebook became the means by which citizens could keep pace with developments and share information, such as the text numbers for disaster relief agencies and volunteer organizations. For the first time different agencies were able to collect the crowd sourced data and target the rescue efforts, no doubt the speed at which this could happened saved many people from death.
It also gave the opportunity for real time data to be collected relating to the nature of the storm and the corresponding flood waters. Scientist could measure the effects of the storm as it occurred which in turn helped in the rescue efforts.
Now this happened nearly three years ago. Yet there are similar stories of the use of social media in other crisis from around the world - Haiti and New Zealand Earthquakes, Australian fires. The list goes on.
So, back to the original question ‘Can social media save your life?’.
Lets discuss this in the Google+ hangout on ‘Use of Social Media in Humanitarian Crisis’ 25 April, 12h00 (GMT +1).