The Role of Social Media in the Bastrop, Texas Fires

September 12, 2011
Fires in Bastrop

If you live in the southeastern part of Texas, you’re no doubt very aware of the fire that started in Bastrop and continues, almost totally uncontrolled, to burn its way across the rain-starved state. It’s a scary time for many, but the power of social media is helping us work together to preserve and recover.

Word of mouth social media

In times like these, when people and property are in danger, getting news out quickly is critical; information spreads much faster through real-time social media channels than it ever could through news programs or online newspapers, and so many are taking to social media networks to disseminate information:

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The news that used to take days or weeks to spread can now be sent instantly — more lives and property can be saved, and coordinating donations and volunteers goes more smoothly.

How you can help

The fires are now more than 50% contained, but over 1,500 homes have been destroyed, and over 5,000 people had to be evacuated from the area. Many have lost almost all of their possessions, and Bastrop County has been declared a federal disaster area. And with over 140 separate fires happening in Texas in the last week, we’re not out of the woods yet.

  • Donate - Shelters in Texas are taking donations of just about everything: clothes (for all ages), food, diapers, toys, games, bedding, towels, toiletries...the list goes on. Check with local churches or charitable organizations to see if they’re accepting donations, or you can make tax-deductible monetary donations of the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund.
  • Volunteer - Spend some time at a shelter sorting donated items, providing emotional support to evacuees, entertaining children, or whatever the shelter operators need you to do. Open your home to evacuees and their families. If you’re a current or retired firefighter with your own equipment, consider heading into Bastrop to volunteer your services.
  • Spread the word - The amazing thing about social media is that you don’t have to be near the fires to help. Join one of the Bastrop fire Facebook pages and share those updates with your friends, and encourage them to pass on the latest information/requests for assistance.

I am glad to see that social media is more than just a way to reconnect with friends and family — it’s becoming a way to spread important, live-saving, information with just a click of the mouse.

[Image: KCEN TV]

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