When Disaster Strikes
Staying in touch when it matters most
Our users continue to surprise us with unexpected and utterly amazing uses for GroupMe. Today, we’re digging into some data and emails from our users to look at a vital use of our service: communicating during emergencies.
At the end of April, an outbreak of tornadoes in the American South devastated towns across the region, killing hundreds and causing billions of dollars in property damage. It already ranks among the most tragic natural disasters in American history.
As expected, GroupMe users nationwide were definitely talking about the tornadoes in their groups. Look at how the trend spiked during that period for messages mentioning “emergency”, “tornado”, or “disaster”.
With the news about the impending tornadoes spreading through the media and public social networks, talk about emergencies on GroupMe skyrocketed to nearly 4 times the usual level.
More interestingly, though, we also found that people on the ground in affected areas found a much more practical use for GroupMe. With the power out across most of the state, landlines didn’t work, and data networks were congested. In Alabama, simple SMS and cell phone calls were sometimes the only technologies that worked.
Indeed, our data shows that usage in Alabama spiked to over 208% normal usage levels during the tornadoes. The graph is stunning:
What followed were amazing emails carrying stories of people using GroupMe to check in with family and friends, or even communicate with first responders. Just look at this one, from a user in northern Alabama:
With power out across North AL I was introduced personally to GroupMe’s use and it is awesome when all that really works is text. I’m promoting use with small groups of people that are narrowly focused on specific relief pieces [… e]ven promoting it as a business continuity tool within my company since we lost touch with all of our staff and had a few people directly located within the path of the storms.
Or this one, from a county EMS coordinator in North Carolina:
During our recent tornadoes in North Carolina we were able to coordinate our emergency response group via GroupMe. The simple interface and rapid setup allowed quick use of SMS to get folks informed and moving in to help. I know this is not the “intended” use of the system, but when time is limited and the need is there to message and establish a group phone conference, things worked really well. SMS has become a unified message system with so many of our staff on different phone platforms. GroupMe helped unified our tasks as well as assisted in the timeline of events.
This use case is something we didn’t see coming, but we couldn’t be more proud that GroupMe is helping people stay in touch when they need it most. This kind of story is exactly why we are so devoted to making GroupMe the best way to keep in touch with your groups, anytime, anywhere.
Of course, the process of rebuilding after the damage is nowhere near done. Please consider donating to funds dedicated to helping affected areas in the south.
Also, we want to hear how you are using GroupMe and feature it here. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(photo via jamiesrabbits on flickr)