If you want to keep up to date with what is happening across the world, then the fastest way to access live footage is to jump on social media networks. From Twitter to Facebook to Youtube to Google+ each of these social networks have proven themselves to be invaluable when assessing the impact natural disasters can have on cities.

Only recently, the world was able to catch a glimpse of the destruction Hurricane Sandy did to America. Captured on mobile phones, many Americans live streamed the event onto Youtube and Twitter for everyone to see.

And hurricane Sandy is not the only natural disaster/event to have been live streamed on social media networks.

Thanks to the likes of Twitter, most people now have a better idea of the real horror of being swept up in a tsunami, escaping a terrorist attack or surviving an earthquake.

How is this affecting the media?

Social media may have previously been dismissed by the press as a source of gossip; however if Hurricane Sandy and the 2005 bombings in London are anything to go by, they prove that social media can be an invaluable reporting resource.

Not only do they enable the press to access eye-catching footage/videos, but the use of public journalism means that the press can more accurately portray how the event has affected those present at the scene.

How else is social media useful during disasters?

You might think that these social platforms are only good for generating live action videos and imagery for reporters; however recent events have proven that social media can do so much more.

During the 2011 earthquake in Japan, Google Maps and Ushahidi (a mapping site) proved crucial to emergency services as they helped them to identify which areas were in most need of relief.

Similarly during Hurricane Sandy these 2 crisis mapping sites – plus Mappler – enabled the public to map out which areas had been affected by flooding as well as give up to the minute map updates of which gas stations were open – something that the emergency services and government failed to achieve themselves.

Can social media help us plan for the future?

Given how pivotal social media has proven itself to be during previous disasters, it is easy to see how these mediums can help us to prepare for the future.

Through their live streaming features, mapping and reports we can use these mediums to more accurately determine the damages caused by floods, earthquakes and hurricanes (including the rate of damage), so we can implement better preventative procedures.

In addition, social media can also help us to determine where we are going right or wrong during these events.

As you’ll know, nothing is ever smooth sailing. However, by being able to recognise where we are going wrong, we can amend our approach and ensure next time the same mistakes aren’t made.

Who can benefit?

Everyone! The incredible thing about social media is that it can immediately provide everyone with the information they need to ensure they are prepared to handle any type of event.

So whether you are a business located close to a flood area or someone who works for the emergency services, by taking advantage of social media you ensure you and everyone around you are better protected.

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