In recent years the number and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes has been steadily rising, and because these storms tend to disproportionately affect poorer areas social media has become an integral part of storm safety and reporting.
When Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on September 1 it was a category 5 storm it was devastating. However, the island received little relief from its own government in the aftermath many turned to social media as a means or searching for relatives and coordinating rescues.
“Social media has helped save lives,” said Raevyn Bootle, a college student in Nassau who used WhatsApp to find her family members in Treasure Cay. “I don’t think that without it we could have gotten anybody out of there,” she said. “My mom, aunt, grandmother — I think they would be lost.”
The use of social media during the crisis also allowed coordinated search and rescue efforts by ordinary citizens like Dr. Crystal deGregory who spoke to Insider magazine about the role social media had in Bahamas search and rescue efforts;
deGregory said that as Bahamians saw the damage from the storm intensify and found government resources like helpline telephone numbers prove unhelpful, island residents “deputized themselves to see about search and rescue in their private vehicles or whatever things they had, whether it be boats or even jet skis.”
There is even a Facebook group with over 12,000 members known as Bahamas People Search which allows people to share updates and search for relatives from all over the island. As the death toll from Dorian continues to rise in the weeks after the Hurricane first made landfall in the Bahamas many are relying on social media and apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook to track down missing relatives and receive life saving news and updates from one of the most severe Hurricanes in modern day history.