Social Media and Vulnerable Populations During Sandy

Post by: Kim Stephens

Listen to this great piece by Talk of the Nation on NPR titled: “Sandy Especially Tough on Vulnerable Populations.”

This broadcast was done on November 1, 2012, just four days after the storm struck. One of the people the moderator spoke to is Alejandra Ospina. Alejandra uses a wheelchair and is the partner of Nick Dupree, a person who requires a ventilator. The couple live on the 12th floor of a building in the Tribeca area of  NYC and were without power for many days after Sandy. Alejandra spoke to NPR about how a network of both friends and people they had never met helped them get through the aftermath of the storm.

What she doesn’t talk about, however, is how that all happened via social media. The entire story was detailed on the blog “Little Free Radical” in a long piece titled  “Unconventional Aid: Helping Nick Dupree, Social Networking Style.”  This extraordinary story details how an inchoate group of people came together to provide the assistance this couple needed to stay in their home and to remain safe and well. The following paragraph from the story describes a bit about how social media was put to use:

In the meantime, other facebook friends put together & started distributing a note, PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY in NYC – need help during the blackout, and put together a Google Document, Giving Nick and Alejandra a Hand to help coordinate items they needed as well as nursing care, volunteers to run up and down 12 flights of stairs as batteries died to go recharge them. It gave volunteers in NYC area a good starting point for what types of help they needed. And then everyone knew who was working on what – even though many of us had no clue who each other was.

Let me know what you think. What role should government play in helping people in this situation, if any? Nick did not want to go, nor need to go to a hospital and a shelter would have been devastating. As Alejandra stated in the interview, the Fire Department helped by charging the batteries, but really couldn’t provide much more direct assistance because they were already overtaxed. This couple was able to get the help they needed from volunteers, and even though it was a cobbled together last-minute solution, it did work. It makes me wonder, however, about the isolated–folks who are not as tuned in via social media or other networks and have no close family or friends to help them. What solutions could be recommended for them?

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One Response to Social Media and Vulnerable Populations During Sandy

  1. sahnetaeter says:

    Thank you for this valuable post, Kim. It shows the importance of good neighbourhood and good relations to each other. Of course the state has a high responsibility but in such large scale disasters at least for a first phase, people depend on each other: Family, friends, neighbours…

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