The experience one gets during a natural disaster is one of the most horrifying ones a person can ever get in their life. On the one hand, a person should somehow summon up, cope with their fears and stress, and act wisely and quickly. Taking into consideration the fact that natural disasters often come unexpectedly, and no one can predict the course of their development, it becomes even more difficult for ordinary people to plan their actions and be organized. On the other hand, apart from trying to save their own lives, almost everyone needs to know that their dear people are safe and sound. In the recent years, social media have declared themselves as an effective means of communication between people during natural disasters and, as Alisha Mehdi (2017) states, have even saved many lives. My personal experience also proves the helpfulness of social media during natural disasters since they were the only means of communication I could use to establish connections with my dear people during Hurricane Florence.
Some days before Hurricane Florence started, the local authorities announced about the coming natural disaster and asked all people not to leave their homes and keep together. I would have gladly followed this piece of advice, but, a few days before the disaster, my son got ill and was hospitalized to the intensive care unit. Since I had to stay nearby, my family and friends were far from me, and it was essential for me to know that they were safe during the disaster. Every hour, the wind was getting stronger, and it became extremely dangerous to go outside. All the time, people were monitoring the situation with the help of Facebook and other popular social media.
At some point, the building in which the intensive care unit was located was disconnected from electricity and, sometime later – from water supply. Most appointments and surgeries were canceled since the doctors could not work in such conditions. The building in which I was with my son was in a ten-minute drive from the main hospital, and it was impossible to get to the latter in such weather. All doctors, patients, and the relatives of the latter had to stay in the building without water and electricity for three days. We were not allowed to drink or take a shower because of the water contamination that was caused by the hurricane. Luckily, not far from the hospital, there was a Walmart where people could buy the necessities, such as bottled water and canned food, and some life survival kits with a portable charger and a flashlight. Everything one could do was to wait until the disaster came to an end.
Though my son was beside me, I needed to know if the rest of my family was safe. Since, because of the weather, one could not connect via mobile phones, the only way for me to get in touch with my relatives and friends was to do it with the help of social media. I used Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter to inform my friends and relatives about my location and to let them know I was safe. Moreover, I wrote private messages to some of them in order to ask where they were and if they needed help. Now, I can hardly imagine what I would have felt and thought if there had been no possibility for me to contact my dear people.
Summing up, just as Robert Southers (2017) claims, social media are extremely useful during and after natural disasters since they help people to keep in touch with each other. Moreover, with the help of special hashtags and location marks, ordinary people, activists, and rescuers can ask for help and multiply the chances of dozens of people for being saved. Though the initial function of social media was different, and there are still many problems with their use during natural disasters, I believe, in future, they can become a useful tool for reducing the losses during hurricanes, earthquakes, and other catastrophes.