According to the New York Times, on Saturday, April 25th, Nepal was struck with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the capital city of Katmandu.
Aftershocks measured as high as 6.6 and those on and at the base of Everest were affected when the quake triggered an avalanche. The thing that was on everyone’s mind was which of their loved ones might be in the area and if they were okay.
The Panic After a Disaster
I knew that panicked feeling after a disaster strikes because we lived through a horrific EF4 tornado in Henryville, Indiana back in 2012. Although not on the scale of this disaster, the moments after the disaster are terrifying.
Your first thought is whether family and friends are safe. Your second thought is how you can let your family and friends on the outside know you’re safe. For us, all cell signals were knocked out and we had no access to the outside world.
I had been on the phone with my mom when the tornado went through and I knew she would be in a panic at the cut in communication and then lack of response. On top of that, my husband turned on the car radio and the reports that the school had been wiped out were sobering. Our relatives would have no idea that the kids had been sent home early and that our daughter was safe with us.
It was true after the tornado that Facebook was our lifeline. We were eventually able to get out of the area and a couple towns away where we had cell service (barely). We immediately posted a short note to Facebook that we were all okay and to let everyone know.
My next call was to my mom. Wouldn’t yours be?
The use of Facebook to “check in” and let your loved ones know you’re safe didn’t escape Facebook’s notice. They now have a Safety Check feature.Simply go to the Safety Check Crisis page.
Whatever the trending disaster is, it will pull up right away. For example, when I go to that page, I can see that none of my friends or family are in the area.
However, if I did have friends or family in the area, they could also use this page to “check in” and let me know they were okay. Imagine this scenario:
Your brother is fulfilling his lifelong dream to climb Mount Everest. He’s saved his money for years, trained for months and is off on the adventure of a lifetime. You turn on the news and hear that an earthquake triggered an avalanche on Everest.
You have no way to contact him. He’s out of the country. In the past, you would have had to wait until he made it out of the affected area and was able to contact you. This might sound simple but communications often go down during a disaster, so it may have days and days before you heard he was okay. All that time, you’re worried.
However, because of Facebook, you login to your account, navigate to the Safety Check area and see that your brother has checked in and is safe.
Can you imagine the relief this imaginary sister feels when she sees her brother survived?
There is no doubt that social media can have negative points. Cyber bullying, petty arguments over politics and crass jokes can wear on your nerves. However, social media also connects us and lets us know our loved ones are safe. Social media is here to stay and in some ways it is a blessing.