Social Media to The Rescue
First, Hurricane Harvey cut a wide swath of destruction through Houston and much of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. Right on its heels came Hurricane Irma, battering the Caribbean, Florida, and Southeastern seaboard. Record rainfall and unprecedented storm surge in some areas left thousands of people trapped in their homes or other buildings surrounded by water and in dire need of rescue.
Overwhelmed public officials plead for help from private citizens, and thousands answered the call. The challenge then became connecting rescuers with those needing rescue. Cue Zello.
Zello is a free push-to-talk social media app that allows users to transform their phones into two-way walkie-talkie radios, by using WiFi and cellular data. It quickly became the go-to tool helping organize the massive grassroots rescue efforts during the storm. Where cell service was slow or nonexistent, Zello was a reliable lifeline. When texting was incredibly inefficient and at times impossible, Zello expedited communications exponentially. At the height of Hurricane Harvey, 120 people per second were downloading Zello.
With the Zello app, users can set up and name channels on Zello, or use keywords to search for relevant channels. During Hurricane Harvey, channels such as Cajun Navy Dispatch, Boaterstexas, and Harvey Animal Rescue coordinated rescue efforts. A channel named Houston Midwives for Pregnant Mammas assisted laboring moms who couldn’t make it to a hospital.
Sometimes, social media gets a bad rap. Often, it’s used for trivial reasons. Sometimes it can be harmful. But Zello is just the latest example proving that social media is incredibly powerful and can be harnessed for good.