People in the Philippines continue to struggle mightily in the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (known as “Yolanda” in that country), which resulted in the catastrophic loss of shelter, basic necessities and life. With a preliminary death toll of thousands in Tacloban alone and areas of Central Philippines close to completely leveled, Filipinos have used social media in an effort to keep the global community informed of their dire needs.
Social Media and Crisis Intervention
From missing persons to depleting medical supplies, the devastation in the island nation became immediately evident. But in the age of smartphones and social media help is always just a click away. From Google’s crisis tools to Facebook status updates, Filipinos who have found ways to get online have been able to reach out, and the global response has been overwhelming. Here are some ways in which the social community has been instrumental in communicating needs and aiding rescue and relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan.
- Google crisis tools. Google has proved helpful in the efforts to find missing family members and locating relief efforts during significant natural disasters in recent years, and Haiyan is no exception. Google’s crisis page for this disaster includes a map indicating where families can find hospitals, relief drop-off stations, areas of calamity and command posts with vital information, as well as a list of organizations that are accepting donations for the Philippines relief efforts. They are also giving relief grants to non-government organizations working in the affected areas.
- Google Person Finder online. Perhaps the most critical tool of all has been the Google Person Finder database. Anyone can use Google Person Finder from anywhere in the world to search for missing loved ones, or they can enter information about people found in the Philippines. The Person Finder tool hosts more than 40,000 records of missing people, making it a vital tool for search-and-rescue efforts.
- Facebook and Twitter. In the Philippines, people who were able to get a signal and had access to working phones took to their devices and immediately began to reach out to the international community via Facebook and Twitter. One woman, tagging a local journalist and the rest of the world media, brought the little-known village of Estancia to the world’s attention, alerting them of the dire situation there.
- Power of geotagging. Communities shared photos, status updates and tweets, geotagging posts and thanking the global community for their prompt response, sharing news about people lost and people found—sometimes good news, other times sad—and telling the world specifically what their immediate and long-term needs are.
What Can You Do to Help?
Social media has made it simple to make even the smallest donation. Facebook, for instance, has added a “Donate $10” button to the top of the news feed that users see upon logging in, in an effort to collect funds for the Red Cross—but there’s much more you can do.
- Join relief efforts in your community. Chances are nonprofits, community organizations or church groups are conducting donation drives for those affected in the Philippines. Don’t just donate to those groups—be an active part of them.
- Donate while online shopping. Find out which stores are donating portions of their sales to the Haiyan relief efforts and do your holiday shopping there. You can also donate to organizations online, such as the World Food Programme, the Red Cross and UNICEF.
- Take relief into your own hands. Are there no groups in your area putting together relief packages? Start one in your community. Organize a local drive or go to your neighbors, families and friends and gather supplies to donate. If you’re not sure that will work, there is an organization called ShelterBox USA, which creates emergency survival kits to give to people in disaster-stricken areas. The kits include, among other things, water and tents. Visit ShelterBoxUSA.org for more information.
- Join online relief efforts. If you’re a programmer, go on Geeklist and find out how your skills can be used to help clear the lines of communication in the Philippines. If you have many followers on social media, be sure to share posts coming across your feeds that could be essential for relief efforts. Be sure they are geotagged so those keeping track of social media in the Philippines can pass on critical information quickly.
This is merely a small sampling of the many relief efforts designed to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and how social media is helping those in need. How can you use social media to help those in need? Look no further than your fingertips. We are in a marvelous time where with just your cellphone you can make an impact.