For those who don’t already know, most of Southern Alberta is in a state of emergency as massive flooding has decimated towns such as High River and good portions of Calgary remain underwater. While I’ll share a few photos and post some links for those who wish to help out via the Red Cross, my post is more on the impact of Social Media in incidents like this.
Here is Macleod Trail SW under water. Below is what is normally looks like without the Elbow river causing massive flooding
Overall what I’ve found fascinating is the level of comradely and a sense of “brotherhood” to your fellow man or woman. If I think back to say the Edmonton Tornado or 1987 commonly referred to as “Black Friday”, what we have today at our disposal of communication is nothing compared to what was available in ‘87. The pictures, the communication (more on that in a bit), the “call to arms”, the willingness to volunteer all have been impacted by Social Media. We are living this event through Social Media primarily and not in the older way of radio or TV. Social Media is the new news outlet.
We now have an immediate sense of what’s going on and the impact a certain event has instead of waiting for the media to report it to us via radio or television. Often the news and images would be to late and we’d be left scrambling around to try and help out after the fact. Today people are seeing the incidents unfold in real time and in some cases people are opening their doors to perfect strangers to allow the evacuees a place to stay while things return to normal. Check out the Kijiji ad’s I found on this…
I’m not saying this didn’t happen before however it was more reactionary and not proactive and to be honest it didn’t happen in as many numbers. People via Social Media and in my case I’ve been following through Twitter with the hashtag #ABFlood and #YYCFlood, have a greater sense of wanting to help and volunteer their services, home, food, etc. It’s almost the opposite of a mob or riot mentality where people are coming together to do good things instead of bad. That just goes to show that despite all the disconnection we have with technology, we can still leverage it for good and come together when it really matters.
Now there is a bit of a flipside to the additional set of communication that happens during these events. In some ways things can be misconstrued or misrepresented as everyone has the ability to write something on an event. Some examples of information from this event that were just not true or people were getting a head of themselves:
- The “big cats” from the Calgary Zoo were taken to jail cells at the courthouse. This wasn’t entirely true at the time it was reported and was actually part of the Zoo’s emergency planning.
- The Saddledome had some flooding which was reported up to the 10th or 13th row however in some parts of the country, radio stations were reporting up to the 25th. Not true. Sean mentioned a radio station in Saskatoon reported that.
- Drinking water was a huge back and forth. People were saying the water wasn’t good to drink and you had to boil it, yet despite the news feed from CTV and the City of Calgary they maintained all day the water was safe to drink.
- The last thing I’ll mention is pictures and it’s funny as you watch the feed how people will re-tweet a picture that is 24 hours old and say it’s current. Perhaps to them as they just came across it however a lot of people posted pictures from the day before showing what today looked like which wasn’t true.
Miscommunication is bound to happen and you have to check into things a bit more and find the official twitter accounts for say the Emergency Alert (@AB_EmergAlert) for more accurate information. Getting in contact with official websites and emergency websites will be your best bet to find out real information.
On the note of pictures, what I love seeing via sites like Twitter is the constant upload of pictures for events like this. These “once in a lifetime” events are getting more coverage than events of the past and people are able to witness first hand in some cases through pictures and video via smartphones. It’s unreal to think about how much information an event like this #ABFlood produces and how we as consumers of the data can stay in touch and live the experience in almost real time. People are capturing some pretty amazing footage despite all the devastation, but even through all the devastation you can capture some pretty amazing shots like this firefighter who helped an elderly lady to safety. That’s not always what the media catches and it’s pictures like this that need to go “viral”.
Lastly before I get to the information on how you can help out by donations to the Red Cross, Google has provided a pretty slick map to help people see where the evacuation zones are, road closures, bridge closures, traffic conditions etc. It’s this information age we live in and people are demanding we know more and more. Check it out here:
If you want to help out please contact the Canadian Red Cross via their twitter account @redcrosscanada or you can just text REDCROSS to 30333 and you can donate $5 dollars right off your phone bill. Very easy.
If you need to call the Red Cross as an evacuee or are looking for family members please call 1-866-696-6484
The Alberta Government has an emergency website created just for this incident. You can find it here – http://alberta.ca/acn/201306/34391696EE0DA-B96E-B460-2056188CBC784FE8.html