Responsible social media use during disasters

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Oct 18 2015 07:30 PM

Typhoon #LandoPH made landfall early today in Aurora. ABS-CBN News reported midnight that PAGASA has placed Aurora and Southern Isabela under public storm warning signal number 4. "This means that these areas should experience winds of 171 to 220 kph in at least 12 hours."

Thousands have evacuated from high-risk areas on the coast and mountains and catch basins in many areas, including Mindanao, with the release of a LIST OF AREAS AT RISK OF RECEIVING OVER 100 mm OF RAIN OVER THE NEXT FOUR DAYS.

The Philippines is the world's social media capital. While Internet penetration is low at less than 40% of the national population, 98% of the 35-million people with Net access are on Facebook.

Let's use the savvy to help mitigate -- not worsen -- the damage from Typhoon #LandoPH. Social media is at its most meaningful when used to help those without access to it.

Stand by to pass on information to friends and kin in affected areas.

Check if your barangay office has Internet. If it doesn't, ask officials if you can share breaking news and information from disaster agencies and news outfits. (There is a lag time getting info through government channels down to the grassroots.) Talk to a responsible official and get his or her number. It is better to focus on channeling info to a few responsible folk. Do the same for immediate neighbours.

You want to be a RESPONSIBLE CONDUIT OF INFORMATION. So remember these guidelines:

MONITOR. Most news outfits have dedicated micro sites for disaster reportage. PAGASA is on Facebook and on Twitter as @dost_pagasa. Project NOAH is also a good source of information, especially on rainfall forecast. (We know the deluge can be as deadly as strong winds.)

SHARE CAREFULLY. FOCUS ON OFFICIAL GOVT ANNOUNCEMENTS AND VERIFIED UPDATES from media outfits you trust. This is important because false/fake news circulate during disasters. You do not want to add to panic or, worse, give people false information that can endanger their lives. THIS IS CRITICAL when passing on requests for rescue or evacuation -- any false report takes away from efforts for legitimate victims.

PASS ON CRISIS HOTLINE INFO. Do NOT call unless there is urgent need. We want the lines free for those really in need of rescue.

LEARN TO VET FROM YOUR END. If a friend tags you with a photo or video of a disaster event, or a warning, or a call for help, do these things.

If you are sharing direct information to media outfits like BMPM, always give your name, your place, the date and time you took photos or videos. Tell them you will PM your contact details. There are also news apps that allow you to pass information in more secure conditions. Check these out.

Ingat po tayong lahat!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.