I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
How Social Innovation Became A Lifeline During Hurricane Sandy
This is how social innovation played a positive part to keep people updated about Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast of America on 29 October. Let us start with Facebook. According to this social media giant, the ten words and phrases most posted by Facebook users over the crucial 24 hours when Hurricane Sandy was about to hit were: Sandy / hurricane/Hurricane Sandy; stay safe/be safe; storm; weather; east coast; power; my friends; cold; prayers/praying and wind/winds. Radian6, who measures social media use, says #Sandy had more than four million mentions by almost 400,000 unique sources on Twitter during that 24-hour period.
Google helped those affected prepare for the storm with a dedicated crisis map which used social innovation to track Sandy's path, letting users choose between several layers of information, such as the current location of the storm, forecast track, shelter locations, cloud imagery, public alerts and more. Google also launched a special Sandy crisis map for New York City which displayed information about evacuation zones, evacuation centres and the Red Cross emergency shelters.
If you had a smartphone there were quick, easy and cheap useful apps to download to keep people up-to-date about Sandy. There was something called the Hurricane Tracker for iOS, which delivered the latest forecasts and National Hurricane Centre data on the storm's path right to your iPhone. It also included relevant Twitter feeds from storm centres and meteorologists. The American Red Cross has a vital Hurricane app for iOS and Android with many features. It tracks weather information, lets you broadcast an "I'm safe" message to friends and family and if you do need to evacuate your home, it maps the nearest Red Cross shelter. It also has a list of steps to take in case of an emergency.
Sitting in London I also heard about a very effective Facebook page that harnessed the full potential of social innovation, called, 'Hudson Valley Weather'. It helped prepare people with practical information. Hudson Valley Weather "provides localised and detailed forecasts for the Hudson Valley and enables activity both online and off, supporting the community. Alex Marra, the weather expert behind HVW accumulates the data and hones his weather forecasts. With the rest of the team, he constantly educates their readers. This is what he wrote about Hurricane Sandy a week ago: "The most popular name next week will be Sandy." Sandy was a massive category one hurricane.
As Hurricane Sandy swept through New York City, the New York Fire Department's Twitter account responded to pleas for help, offering words of comfort, all in 140 characters or less. The Twitter feed was a lifeline for many stranded and it responded to hundreds of tweets most of them in the first hour or two after Sandy. In retrospect, Twitter and Facebook became a key way for friends and family to check in on each other and wish those on the East Coast safe.
Photo Credit: New York Fire Department Twitter Account