Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the Jersey Shore, NY, and Long Island a couple of weeks ago. People immediately jumped on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to post and share their stories, images, and videos of the super storm.
Social media sites provided platforms for people around the tri-state area to map the flooding from Hurricane Sandy, and of course, help news organizations cover the crisis. Many took to social media to connect, share and collaborate around core needs, even as the region’s own infrastructure struggled or totally failed. Local people even posted maps of open gas stations!
While NYC has a sophisticated digital initiative, NYC Digital, that sprang into action, local churches also used the Internet and social media to help respond to the disaster. Oasis Church in Springfield, NJ has been using the Internet to respond to the super storm, including attracting hundreds of volunteers from across the country to help make the Thanksgiving holiday season a little brighter for those affected by the devastation. And even though the megastorm has passed, many still need assistance, and much recovery work remains to be done.
Here are 10 ways churches can use social media to assist during disasters:
- Use FB and Twitter as an early warning system for members and the community-at-large. Twitter, often, comes out with the news before the news organizations.
- Share news updates, storm experiences, prayer requests, and calls for assistance.
- Use FB and Twitter to let people know how to prepare, what’s coming, and where to get help.
- Provide links to official disaster response organizations like FEMA, NVOAD, local police and fire departments, hospitals, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.
- Create bulletin boards, using #hashtags on Twitter linked to FB, to post the latest news, injury reports, power outages, evacuations, dangerous situations, damage reports of churches and elsewhere in the community, relief resources, etc.
- Prepare a crisis plan/ phone tree. (Btw, social media is actually the new phone tree tool.) Remind members to check on each other and those in the community, especially the vulnerable and elderly.
- Use FB and Twitter to organize, mobilize, and publicize relief and recovery efforts.
- Provide prayer and pastoral care for those whose lives have been impacted by the disaster.
- Establish relationships and digital connections with relief organizations before the disaster strikes.
- Prepare your plan for the next disaster now, and begin communicating it ASAP!
For more information on social media response to disasters see the following links:
72 Hour Lutheran – TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod Disaster Preparations and Response
Church Media: Being Ready In and Out of Season – Church Mag
Recovers.org – Community software that helps organize volunteers, donations, and information during disaster situations
Texting Connects Families During Disaster – Orlando Sentinel
Social Media’s Crucial Role in Disaster Relief Efforts – Guardian.co.uk
Social Media Tools For Disaster Planning and Communications (Twitter Chat) – Church Social Media Blog #Chsocm
What Was Novel About Social Media During Hurricane Sandy? – Patrick Meier, iRevolution
How is your church/ministry preparing for the next disaster? How is digital social media included in your strategy?
Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!