July 6, 2014 8:46 pm

Social media can help and hinder efforts during a natural disaster


REGINA – Social media sites can act as an important tool for municipalities, residents and people watching from across the country to communicate during a natural disaster.

Alec Couros is an educational technology and media professor at the University of Regina, and said that social media sites are accessible online platforms to share information and stories.

“It’s easy to share how you’ve been affected by the flooding. So, I think social media is really natural when it comes to reporting issues of disaster,” he added.

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Social media doesn’t allow people to be complacent during a weather crisis, because even if you’re not looking for information, it’s often being shared across your screen.

Of course, in a developing situation, that’s exactly what people are looking for.

Jessica Pape writes on Facebook that such sites helped her get around roads that were washed out.

Lisa Neville is originally from Gainsborough, but lives in Grand Prairie. She said that social media sites allow her to stay connected with family and friends back home during the flooding.

“We can kind of feel like we’re there without actually being there. It doesn’t help, but it’s nice to be updated.”

Constant updates, right as they are happening, reach a virtually endless audience.

“When you see this great evidence of flooding in people’s backyards and assets destroyed and houses destroyed, I think more people are willing to step up and provide a safety net for other people,” explained Couros.

Many municipalities have been using sites like Facebook and Twitter to help keep residents informed. It’s an especially useful tool when the power goes out.

However, when rumors began to fly, such as false information about a dam breaking near Melville, some posts can do more damage than good.

Premier Brad Wall said Saturday, that people need to ensure the information they are putting out online is correct.

“There is a bit of a risk in the age of social media, sometimes the information that goes out isn’t quite accurate,” he explained. “That’s a concern, but the benefits far outweigh those risks.”

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