A little over one year ago I wrote a personal blog post about the effectiveness of social media during a disaster. At the time, President Obama was visiting Seattle when an F-15 generated a sonic boom in response to invasion of restricted airspace. This type of experience is one not many are familiar with, and the social-media savvy of Seattle took to Twitter to not only identify what the emergency was, but also find community support, as many believed there was a real disaster emerging. The availability of social media was especially critical as the scare actually crashed the local 9-1-1 system.

Hurricane Irene Meets Social Media - but How Useful is It?This week, millions along the eastern seaboard in the US were affected by an emergency on a scale much larger than the one that struck Seattle: Hurricane Irene. Now, almost exactly one year after the sonic boom generated during Obama’s visit to Seattle, social media is being utilized to create Facebook pages, apps, blogs, and even Twitter accounts to help those feeling the impact of Hurricane Irene. The problem with social media, as opposed to traditional forms of emergency information via sources like a radio, is that people need to be able to access it. In the case of a storm like Irene, not only is cable or DSL Internet not going to be available, but cell phone reception will be spotty as the weather impacts towers and lines are jammed by residents.

While these social media resources are a great idea for emergency preparedness, unless those in the path or the storm or victim of the emergency can access the data, it becomes nothing more than entertainment for the rest of the world. While cell phone networks hope to be able to replace any towers that become unavailable, this will obviously not happen fast enough for those immediately affected by Hurricane Irene — or to resolve jammed lines, such as what happened only days earlier during the earthquake in Virginia.

If you have felt the force of Hurricane Irene and are dealing with the effects of its aftermath, are these new social media resources helpful for you and your family? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by NASA.