Mexico 7.4 Earthquake: Social Media Works When Phones Don’t

March 20th started out as a lovely day in southern Mexico. By mid-afternoon, the southern end of the country was reacting to a devastating 7.4 earthquake and aftershocks. The quake’s epicenter was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of Ometepec, Guerrero.

In 1985, an 8.0 quake in Mexico City left approximately 10,000 people dead. At that time, due to disrupted phones and television, it took several days for accurate information to come out regarding rescues, recoveries, damage and so on. The quake that ripped Ometepec yesterday also disrupted telephone service, including mobile phones. But social media tools remained in service, and it didn’t take long for residents, businesses, rescuers, and even government to log on.In fact, Felipe Calderón began live tweeting updates about the actions and status of Mexico’s social services within several hours of the quake striking.

People throughout southern Mexico, from the epicenter to Aculpulco, nearly 100 miles away, began using Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to communicate with their families, news agencies, and the general public. A hashtag supporting Mexico – #PrayforMexico – began trending on Twitter soon afterwards.

Although phone service was disrupted, people were able to reach outside of the quake zone using Skype. Video and audio from the damaged city and surrounding area were being posted within minutes of the shaking. As aftershock after aftershock rumbled through, updates kept the world informed.

Here’s how you can use social media in the event of a disaster:

Find Out What’s Happening:

  1. Search Twitter for keywords that relate to the event.   For instance you can search for earthquake or term (i.e.#prayformexico).
  2. Find related hashtags on twitter.  Hashtags are used in twitter to tie related conversations together.  So for this sitation, the most common hashtag is unknown
  3. Search for photos and videos of the event using keywords.  Good aggregators of this material include  Youtube, Flickr, twitpic, twipho, twicsy, ustream and picfog.

Share Information With Your Family, Friends, Responders, and Community:

  1. A terrific place to start is via Facebook.  Existing pages can often be found through Twitter links or by searching Facebook.  If a page doesn’t exist you can set one up here.  When you set up a page be sure to include links to other social media support resources.
  2. You may share your Facebook group with Facebook friends or with others via email. Doing so will give people have a central location/space to share information
  3. Use Google to plot problem areas.
  4. If you have a digital camera or smart phone, you may upload photos to Flickr, twitpic or Instagram. Use the hashtags you’ve found in Twitter to tag your photos.
  5. Upload videos you have that can be helpful to Youtube or Vimeo. Use the hashtags you’ve found in Twitter to tag your videos.
  6. If the emergency is a news event then update the news item posted on Wikipedia with the latest resources.

It appears that social media can be an important component to a family or a business when it makes its emergency readiness plan. Do you have an ICE (In case of emergency) plan that includes the use of Twitter, FaceBook, or Skype? Are you ready?

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