Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


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Alison Valach Greenhalgh, Social Media Flooded with Rescue Requests During Hurricane Harvey. Professional Projects from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, UNL Digital Commons December 2018


Copyright (c) 2018 Alison Valach Greenhalgh


When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, social media was used in a new way during a natural disaster. Emergency phone lines were jammed, and people were in desperate need of rescuing. These people turned to social media, such as Facebook, to ask for help. At the same time, civilian rescuers turned to social media to find locations of people in need of rescuing. News articles published stories about the desperate cries for help on social media; however, these articles left some questions unanswered. How exactly did social media connect rescuers and victims, and how could it be more efficient? How did these civilians use Facebook in order to help tens of thousands of Houstonians to be rescued by local civilians in boats?

This project includes protocols for civilians in need or rescuing as well as civilian rescuers on how to best use Facebook during a disaster. In addition, this project also includes additions and updates for Facebook to make in order to be more effective during disasters. These protocols and additions were created based on information from interviews with two Houstonians who were central to the coordination of civilian rescues via social media during Hurricane Harvey.