We all know that in the past, disaster relief has been a disaster.  Katrina, Ivan, the Oil Spills – they’ve all been a nightmare of unhelpful help.  There’s administration.  And paperwork.  And too many people wanting to help with not enough people being able to point them in a direction.  And politics – different relief agencies don’t always want to work together to unify efforts, nor do the different news agencies.

But this time, it’s different – not because all of those complicating factors are gone, but because of social media.

Twitter is changing the world.

(Facebook is helping it, but Twitter is REALLY changing the world.)

I know that Twitter can be confusing and overwhelming, but it is so powerful that it is worth the effort to learn the basics.  Plus, I have some quick and easy links at the bottom of this post to help you utilize it’s power without even having to create an account.

This tornado event is the first large-scale American disaster since the exponential adoption of social media (i.e. – more that “just us geeks” are now using Twitter and Facebook), and it is amazing to see how quickly, efficiently, and specifically it is helping to meet the needs of those that are hurting.

I believe that Twitter alone is more efficient in meeting immediate, specific needs than every aid agency in this town.

For example (and I use this not to pat my husband on the back, but to illustrate how unbelievably powerful Twitter can be):

Chris had three hours available on Sunday with which he wanted to help in the tornado relief.  Instead of blindly showing up in a disaster area and being told to leave (which is happening to many people), or calling an already overwhelmed aid agency that might or might not be able to point him the right direction, he checked twitter.

Two clicks – He checked the #WeAreAlabama hashtag and @Spann’s feed. (If that made no sense, don’t worry – I’ll explain all that in a minute.)

He read the following tweet that had been sent seconds before: “Buckets and Sunblock needed IMMEDIATELY at Concord Baptist Church.”

So Chris drove to Wal-Mart, bought buckets and sunblock, drove to Concord Baptist Church, and dropped them off.

Less than two hours after they made their specific need known.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of these specific needs being made every day on Twitter and Facebook.

This is amazing, this is powerful, and we all can take part in meeting these specific needs.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not at all anti-agency.  I am planning on helping out at the Christian Service Mission later this week.  If you have an agency that you’re working with and they’re utilizing you, by all means – keep on.  But if you can’t find where to help and you want to do something meaningful and specific that you KNOW will make a difference, use social media.

A bit of Twitter Education:

A username starts with an @ symbol.  I am @ObjectivityRach and @AlabamaBloggers.  You can simply click those links to see what I tweet – you don’t have to even create a twitter account.

A hashtag is a search term.  #WeAreAlabama is a hashtag that many people are using when offering help and stating needs.  You can also search for that hashtag on Twitter without setting up a twitter account.

Here are some great links, both Twitter and Facebook, where you can find real time needs for specific material goods and services needed during this disaster, as well as find people offering help and  give goods.

James Spann’s Tweet Stream – our infamous meteorologist is doing an amazingly fabulous job of tweeting and retweeting information about the needs of this storm.  In my opinion, He should win a Humanitarian Nobel Peace Prize for what he’s already done for our state.

We Are Alabama Tweet Stream – This is a Twitter account created to disseminate needs and offers to help for Tornado Relief

#WeAreAlabama Hash Tag – Many people are using this to get needs known.

James Spann’s Facebook Page – James is also updating here, and letting anyone write needs or offers.  Make sure it’s his fan page, not his personal page – the link above is the correct one.

Toomers for Tuscaloosa Facebook Page – This group was started by Auburn fans to help Tuscaloosa – they are doing a great job of helping and getting help.

Hope for Hackleburg Facebook Page – Hackleburg is a small town in Alabama that was hit by an EF-5 tornado that literally lost everything – houses, cars, industry, churches, infrastructure – everything.

UA Greek Relief Facebook Page

The Twitter search term #ALNeeds is a great place to find specific material and volunteer needs, and the search term #ALHaves is a great place to ask where to take specific donations or where to volunteer in specific places.

Blazers for Birmingham – on Facebook and Twitter

Hands on Birmingham’s Event Pages have opportunities to volunteer listed.

**You can also search for specific needs by going to www.twitter.com and typing them in the search box.  For instance, if you want to volunteer in Brookwood, type in “Brookwood Volunteer”.  You’re likely to find some very helpful information.

**** I will be adding to this list as I find more reputable sources – please let me know of any and I will add yours as well. ****

A couple of notes:

– Try to pick needs that you can fulfill by going to places that are churches or disaster relief centers if at all possible – it’s safer, and you know you can find the location.  However, there are many unreached small communities in our state that have no one helping them – they need our help, too.

– Make sure the person that you are taking the information from seems credible.

– If you want to be able to take material goods but don’t have the funds to buy it, check with some local agencies and see if they will let you deliver their goods to meet these specific needs.  I know that the Christian Service Mission was doing this early on, but I’m not sure if they still are.

– If you are out of state and want to meet specific needs, the Christian Service Mission has set up an Amazon wish list that you can order off of and have it sent directly to them!

– I have set up a Charitable Paypal fund, Mommies helping Mommies – that all proceeds will go directly to buying formula, food, and diapers for families in the smaller communities without as much publicity/help. I will personally deliver the items to these communities. There is no overhead cost (I’m personally paying the Paypal fees), no agency, no expenses – just a desperate attempt to keep further tragedy from happening as a result of these storms.

And if all else fails, contact me and I will help you. My Mom called as I was writing this post – she was at Wal-Mart, and asked me to look on Twitter and find a specific need that she could fill.  I asked her what area she could deliver to, she told me, I searched using the links above, and I gave her a specific list of things to buy and a church dropoff location within 3 minutes.  It’s that easy.  This works the same way if you have tornado relief related needs – let me know and I will get it into all of the right tweet streams for you.

Social Media is not just a game anymore.  It IS changing the world.

27 thoughts on “How To Be a Tornado Relief Hero By Using Social Media.

  1. Good information on Twitter. I have to admit I don’t use it but can see how it can be helpful in times like this. Enjoyed the perspective.

  2. Great post!

    I spoke to my s-i-l a few minutes ago and she had just found a volunteer assignment at handsonbirmingham.org . She was able to easily shoose her time, her place and what she wanted to do. They also got back to her fast. That would be a good place to start for anyone who wants to work.

    BTW, I live NW of B’ham near several of the smaller communities that were demolished but haven’t gotten much attention (Argo, Cordova, Sipsy, etc.). There is so much destruction beyond Tuscaloosa, Pratt City and Pleasant Grove. Thanks for reminding everyone how far reaching this disaster is.

    1. That’s great to hear! I added them to my list.

      Also – if you hear of any specific needs for the communities near you that aren’t getting attention, let me know asap and I will get them into the Twitter feeds to get help.

  3. Blazers For Birmingham has done a good job passing on information to UAB students and organizing donation drives.


  4. Great post! I have just been completely overwhelmed at the positive response that social media has played a part in all of this! It is really incredible!

  5. Wow, that’s really neat! I’ve never even seen what Twitter looked like before so it was really interesting to see how helpful it can be in times like this! Great job spreading the word!

  6. We are in NJ (originally from Alabama) and have had a lot of success even passing along needs to our families who are still in the area via Twitter and Facebook. It has been quite remarkable to follow Toomers for Tuscaloosa and hear of a need and watch it be met within minutes! We ordered from Amazon early and sent to one of the churches, but I was thrilled to see the new list published. Thanks also to bloggers like you who share the pictures, the needs, and the ways the rest of us can meet those needs!

    1. Thank you so much for your support of Alabama!! I am amazed at the outpouring from other states – it is so appreciated!!

  7. I love the Amazon wish list, I think I wil mention that on my blog- I know people want to help, and sometimes its nice to know exactly what your money is going to. I think this is a great way for those of us who live far away can do. Thank you so much! I will of course also direct them over here to see all the options. Thanks, Rachel!

  8. What an informative post! I loved getting Twitter updates on my phone the past week from our local news station since our power was out. It was great staying caught up on what was going on and where the needs were.

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