There was a social side to Winter Storm Pax
Ever since the first "Ching.....You've got mail!" was heard, people became more social. They had always been relatively social with their friends and family but really didn't share a lot of individual ideas and opinions until the internet became part of their daily lives.
When a disaster occurred and all power was lost, then folks either turned on their portable radios for news or waited until the power came back on. Often, vital information was missed and lives were impacted because they "just didn't know".
During a disaster, communications is considered to be everything.
Those in the command center need information about the impending or developing situation. They need to be able to communicate to those out in the field so that manpower and resources are properly positioned. Those in the command center also need to get information out to the general public to enhance their safety and welfare.
When Winter Storm Pax approached, I noticed that those connected with social media - Facebook , Twitter, websites and email - were paying attention.
As ice formed on the power lines, social interaction warmed up.
Then came widespread power loss across the area. But what didn't shut down was communicating by social media.
People monitored sites by their cell phones. They reported to us that they would go out to their vehicles and recharge their cell phones so they could stay "connected". The People-Sentinel's Facebook page visits rose exponentially as we sought to inform readers and people reached out to us. We had no power at the office or at our homes but used our cell phones and what WiFi hotspots we could find to get news releases, troll government and power company websites to get updated information. Those at the Emergency Operations Center had our numbers - literally - and used them to pass along information.
Once we shared the information by website and social media, it was passed along neighbor to neighbor by social media and cell phones.
Communications has a calming effect on people. If you know what you are facing, you are better able to deal with it. Personally, once I knew that most of the county was without power, then I figured it would take a while to get it all back up and running - I had less fear and more patience. (I was one of the lucky ones - my power was out for only two days.)
Having communications meant that those having a problem found ways to reach out for help.
And for emergency responders, it meant that they could get effective information or aid out to the people who needed it the most.
Mind, a lot of frustrations were voiced along with the news. That's normal. But it also opened avenues for people to help each other as they learned of who was stranded, who was cold, and who was in need. People reached out and became "social".
I have covered hurricanes and floods and several winter storms in my career but this was the first disaster I have experienced where social media played a huge part of communicating news to county residents.
It won't be the last, I'm sure and I'm comforted by that knowledge.
Well, I guess it is time to log off.
Pardon me while I charge up my cell phone and plug up my computer.
My battery is low and I really don't want to be anti-social.
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