kerala floods

Table of Contents

REVIEW OF LITERATURE:The use of social media in disaster situations has been investigated in recent years using different examples. Studies are differentiated by a focus on social media usage within organisations, within or by communities, and by individuals (Lichterman, 2000).Communication technologies make volunteers more visible and increase the space for participation. The provision of information is changing: predominantly flyers and posters in 2001; increased information hubs in the form of websites (online variant) at emergency accommodation (offline variant) in 2005 (Liu and Palen,2007).The internet has significantly accelerated the speed with which people and information converge in the event of a disaster. The number of people dealing with a disaster, and the spatial distance between them, are fundamentally limitless. Furthermore, there is little evidence of role-based behaviour in online activities: the emphasis is on interaction (Hughes et al.,2008). Social media allow a local presentation of events, give individuals the opportunity to become aware of their situation, and counterbalance mass news coverage. The use of social media in developing countries can be problematic, as this is frequently the reserve of only a small elite (Murthy and Longwell, 2013).Though social media is still in innovative stage, yet according to Jeannette Sutton, social media is a crucial part of disaster preparedness planning but the public should know how to used social media effectively to get information from web and also to float relevant information to the society (Maron, 2013).During emergencies and disasters, social media becomes an important means of communication. The use of social media has been used widely in many disasters like Great East Japan Tsunami (2011), Mount Merapi Eruption in Indonesia (2010), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004) and Chennai floods (2015). Social media has five characteristics in disaster management which includes collectivity, connectivity, completeness, clarity and collaboration. It is the first-hand reporting of news, a tool for updates and sharing it instantly with the public. It is also known as „backchannel‟ communication when the public is engaged in discussion and provides feedback. Social media is active even when the other modes of communication fail (Annamalai, Koay, & Lee, 2014).Information exchange through social media is pivotal in tracking with accurate hashtags and keywords (Harihar, 2015). Social media enables to take important decision and actions during disaster, accuracy and timeliness of ground information is necessary. There is a shift in the motive of social media from keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues to sharing information and interaction through internet. During the Chennai flood, J&K floods, Nepal earthquake, Uttarakhand flash flood, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were full of post seeking help by displaying vital information’s of affected areas, flashing emergency numbers to get information, spreading awareness, channel of information exchange, seeking support, gather news about disaster (Pradnya, 2015).Disaster mitigation and rehabilitation of victims became easy through social networking. Locating dear one and their safety became easy through Facebook‟s special feature –Safety Check. This was activated during 2011 Japan earthquake and was used during Nepal earthquake also, where users located near disaster site can mark themselves safe and notify their friends and relatives. Twitter‟s Alert feature started two way communications as seen during Nepal earthquake. During Kashmir floods (2014), automated SOS service for rescue operations was used by army. Twitter channelized the SOS information using twitter feed as hashtag information about the place (#kashmirfloods) having separate code that separated SOS tweets. The social media was used creatively to channelize relief material. (Saleem, 2015). Media strategy is required by the government to filter the information regarding damages and relief measures (Insight, 2015).3. RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:3.1 To understand the role of social media in rescue operations.3.2 To evaluate the effectiveness of social media and its positive impact on rescue and relief operations.4. METHODOLOGY:The aim of the study is to draw conclusions from individual observations, applying them to general contexts, and to generalise from results, following the principle of Social media in disaster management 205 qualitative induction. Any feature discovered will be transferred to existing rules and existing knowledge repositories. This study uses content analysis, semi structured style of interviews with army rescue officers, survivors who were affected by the Kerala floods and used/witnessed the impact of social media in mobilizing relief ventures.5. FINDINGS:Kerala witnessed the most disastrous calamities of all times last year. The magnitude of the downpour was such that man was left helpless and wailing for life. Death was glaring at the masses alike and the fear of losing life gripped the minds for several days. People were ready to leave everthing hard earned for their life and had to bear the brunt of mismanagement of natural resources through the ages. The flood was too heavy that major dams which reserved water had to be opened to avoid impended destruction of four districts leaving no trace of it behind. It was a life and death situation which brought the masses together by joining hands to reach the needy in distress.Thanks to the technology that was developed for random purposes which transformed into life saving platforms in that hour. It was a virtual army of people across the globe that helped invaluably to face the tragedy holding hope in the time of despair. We saw the world coming into being one.Here, the results of the content analysis and interviews are presented with regard to the mentioned main mediums (Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Donations over Digital Space) and their coherences.5.1 WhatsappUntil then, Whatsapp had a role of communication medium for work and casual matters. Its role in public life transformed into a rescue application by all means. A intersection point of information during distress connecting the helping and needy hands.Hours after Kerala saw massive water running through the street people made several WhatsApp groups helping the rescuers by giving information to locate people stranded in several places several rescuers joint such WhatsApp groups and share the location that can be approached for any kind of help during the crisis people started informing them and this eased the rescuers saving the people help reached at the right spot with the advantage of share location feature of WhatsApp the benefit of the feature is that its locate the mobile phone with precision with the help of GPS navigation a group of young people also created a similar app to find people in distressOne such group created in Tamil Nadu stand out in the way it functions for the people of Kerala. Darez Ahmed, state mission director of National Health Mission Tamil Nadu created a WhatsApp group Kerala floods which soon turned out to be the states life line an unprecedented calamity in recent history the young IAS officer himself a doctor and a native of Manjeri Malappuram district of Kerala responded to a distressed message from the Kottayam Government Medical College which had run direly short of medical oxygen flood waters had inundated the interstate roots used by trucks ferrying medical supplies to Kerala Mr Ahmed and his team mobilized oxygen from Tirunelveli, Salem and Kanyakumari district which helped doctors sustain critically ill patients in Thrissur Kottayam and Alapuzha medical colleges.The WhatsApp groups soon became the Gateway of relief materials from other states too. Officials coordinating relief in Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat , Andhra Pradesh, Railway officials and Kerala Civil servants from the rest of India joined the group because it was easier to respond to requirements immediately this way. Kallushappu (toddy shop), a WhatsApp group of techies, initiated the development of another web application,, to address this concern. The group put verified information about different resources on Google Maps so that people can click on some buttons and get the information.Johann Binny Kuruvilla, a travel blogger, was one of many volunteers. He put in 14-hour shifts at the District Emergency Operations Center in Ernakulam, Kochi. The first thing he did, was to harness the power of Whatsapp, a critical platform for dispensing information in India. He joined five key Whatsapp groups with hundreds of members who were coordinating rescue and relief efforts. He sent them his number and mentioned that he would be in a position to communicate with a network of police, army and navy personnel. Soon he was receiving an average of 300 distress calls a day from people marooned at home and faced with medical emergencies. Numerous call centres working relentlessly to provide rescue and relief assistance groups were set up across the country, especially in engineering colleges like IISc Bengaluru, IIT Guwahati and IIT Hyderabad.When the flood wreaked havoc, most of the helpline numbers were always busy. So a cloud telephony-based solution, which enables a single phone number to handle high concurrent call traffic, was introduced by a group of engineers from Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru.Good Samaritans from all over Kerala and elsewhere in the country used WhatsApp to seek relief supplies giving specifics such as materials needed, pick up and drop points and also addresses and phone numbers of individuals to be contacted. WhatsApp also came in handy to caution flood victims about the steps they ought to take while returning to their homes. For instance, one message doing the rounds advises them not to go home alone at night. Further it tells them to ensure that they do not take children who could be scared by the experience. They are warned to be aware of the presence of reptiles, including poisonous ones. Similarly, they need to watch out for gas leakages, switch off all mains and unplug all electronic gadgets before lighting a match stick. Finally, they are advised to inform the police station if they see a dead body and counselled against touching them. FacebookFacebook, as well know was a platform for random things from all over the world. It connected people from different areas of life making it popular among people irrespective of their status in life. We saw celebrities doing a lot of social work to help the affected people by stepping out of their comfort zones.The one which captured the minds of the masses across Kerala was the malayalam award-winning actor Tovino Thomas who doesn’t seem to believe in arm chair activism or limiting his contribution to signing off cheques for flood relief in Kerala.The ‘Maayanadhi’ fame is one of the many celebrities who had willingly gotten his hands dirty by working from the grassroot level to rescue those who have been stranded in water-logged homes. He isn’t shirking from wading through muck-riddled waters and picking those trapped in water-logged homes in his native district Thrissur in Central Kerala.A video was uploaded on his Facebook account showing him drenched to the bone, pleading with his neighbours in water-logged homes seeking refuge on their terraces. He explained that shifting to the relief camps, no matter how rich and privileged your existence is, is the most pragmatic solution of the hour as help may not reach them once the volunteers leave.As soon as the news reports regarding the clogging of water all over Kerala hit the news channels, Tovino and other Kerala celebrities, especially the ones from the younger generation actively got into the flood scenes, drenching themselves in the swampy, marshy flood lands and posting Facebook lives updating public about the current scenario, the quantity of help required as food, clothing and also human volunteers to shift the affected into relief camps. Each live video had an average of 7 lakh views and about one lakh shares , indicating the reach of these celebrities among the public and thereby helping in a better coordination of the relief operations. During the peak hours of rescue operations, these celebrities actively engaged in live videos updating the people about what and where help is required.Another striking intervention from the celebrity clan was of Poornima Indrajith’s who is a malayalam actress and fashion designer and TV anchor, by being active in Kerala flood relief efforts. There other names like Jayaram and family, Asif Ali and celebrities out of Kerala too by doing what they could to help the public. We saw stars coming down to people who made them the stars, stretching out relief.Facebook’s crisis response page updated information ever minute and it had activated the “Safety Check”, allowing users to indicate if they were safe.Anna Jose, a nurse working in Germany, wanted to contact her family in Pathanamthitta. Her Facebook ‘live’ message finally helped contact the family members. With water still not out of the danger mark at Aluva, Pandalam and Pathanamthitta where rescue operations are still on, there is a high frequency of ‘live’ messages