As the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon began, I observed Facebook posts pop-up with happy scenes of runners victoriously running past my sister-in-law’s camera. She had volunteered for a second year to be at a hydration station along the route and had started the day really excited to be a part of something so integral to her adopted city.
Her posts applauded her racer friends, cheering them on through social media. Watching as her photos and posts came through my news feed, back here in Ohio it was just a typical day for me– laundry was folded, children were fed, toys were picked up and re-scattered.
Until the frightening news came through, a bomb had gone off at the marathon.
Our family didn’t have a clear concept of where my sister-in-law had been stationed or what was really going on in Boston. Phone calls would not ring through to her due to lines and circuits being jammed with callers. Two states away, we had no other way to confirm that she was okay.
That was, until one of the most beautiful Facebook posts popped up:
“I am NOT downtown. Praying for my friends and their families.”
And then she shared the link:
The American Red Cross offers the Safe and Well system during a disaster to alleviate anxieties and provide peace of mind to individuals looking for loved ones who may have been affected. In the case of Boston, the Red Cross had 466 registrants who were separated that Monday.
The Safe and Well program information is primarily housed on its website, but as part of the registration process individuals may connect to their Twitter or Facebook page. This will allow the system to send out a select message such as “I’m safe” and a link to the main webpage, www.redcross.org/safeandwell. It can be initiated at Red Cross shelters, when individuals may not have access to the internet.
Safe and Well is also an integral part of Red Cross disaster preparedness/response apps, like the Flood, Tornado, Hurricane and Earthquake Apps. The apps can connect to the individuals Facebook or Twitter accounts to send out a message of safety to loved ones.*
As it turned out, my sister-in-law had been at an early hydration station which had closed. When the bomb went off, she was already at home. But without being able to know this, I am so thankful for social media which allowed her to reach out and communicate to her friends and family across the nation.
Our thoughts are with you today, City of Boston. Standing together you are truly strong.
– Mary, NEO Red Cross Communications
*The apps are available through the Google Play and Apple App Stores. For more information, visit www.redcross.org/apps