Overwhelmed emergency services in the snow-swept U.S. city of Atlanta recently urged residents affected by the adverse weather to get in touch using social media.
While 911 operators were taking increasing numbers of calls as the snowfall continued on Wednesday, the Atlanta Police Department tweeted:
“If you CAN’T get through to 911 please send a message to us through Facebook or Twitter.”
Meanwhile, residents took advantage of Facebook by creating a group called Snowed Out Atlanta Eastside, where people could ask for assistance and others could help those requiring medicine or food.
One woman found herself trapped in an Interstate traffic jam and gave birth in her car. A police officer helped deliver the baby, and paramedics arrived soon afterwards to take them to hospital.
Other residents helped one another by taking to social sites and updating on the chilly situation. Jennifer Brett, a blogger for Access Atlanta, tweeted about the situation while she was stuck in her vehicle with her husband for 13 hours.
One expert of communications at West Virginia University said:
“During states of emergency and other crises, governments and first responders are tied up, and citizens can find themselves on their own in that respect. But thanks to social media they don’t have to fend for themselves.”
The snowstorm in Atlanta isn’t the first time that social media news feeds have played a vital role in rescue efforts. During a severe bushfire last year, emergency services in parts of Australia turned to Twitter, using data on the micro-blogging site to identify fresh outbreaks of the blaze.