WASHINGTON – Social media is helping to advance rescue efforts in southeast Texas in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey.
After the storm's initial impact as a Category 4 hurricane on the coast of Texas, a photo went viral of a group of elderly people trapped in a flooded nursing home.
Timothy McIntosh, whose mother-in-law owns the La Vita Bella Nursing home in Dickinson, Texas, tweeted the photo with the tagline "Need help asap emergency services please RETWEET."
La vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson Texas is almost underwater with nursing home patients pic.twitter.com/oCNkrgoRZY
— Timothy J. McIntosh (@DividendsMGR) August 27, 2017
The image quickly caught the attention of emergency services who managed to track the location and rescue more than 20 people by helicopter, according to The Daily News.
This is just one example of how social media has breached the parameters of entertainment, and has proven effective in rescue efforts and raising awareness of other issues across the globe.
Celebrities, public officials and everyday users alike are using social media to engage others in their humanitarian relief efforts.
Forbes contributor Rebecca Sadwick explains how technology is being used to combat human trafficking:
"Technological advancements also provide unprecedented opportunities for law enforcement and service providers to monitor illicit activity, locate and rescue victims, collect and analyze data leading to the prosecution of traffickers, and streamline communication between anti-trafficking actors and agencies."
Although unconventional, major government organizations see the method as effective.
The Department of Homeland Security published instructions on how to implement social media strategies to further its mission. The guidance, labeled "Innovative Uses of Social Media in Emergency Management," provides strategies for utilizing social media to identify adversaries, take precautions, and pursue proper channels of reporting.
Hashtags are a supplementary tool which functionally serve to centralize information.
In the event of a search effort, users can make statements or take photos while pairing it with a hastag related to the mission. The hashtag link allows emergency management crews to review these posts isolated from other irrelevant posts, which can aid their efforts.