….In the 21st century, the rise of social media and personal technology have had a similarly powerful effect on open societies. The nation saw it two weeks before Irma when the “Cajun Navy” of private boat owners and other citizens organized to assist victims after Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston. People no longer have to look solely to Washington, D.C., and their state capitals for help.
With Irma, Floridians had access to enormous amounts of real-time information in the palms of their hands, on local, state and national levels. They could monitor the hurricane’s track hour by hour, seek the best evacuation routes, watch streaming news casts, see people in other areas comment on, or post video of, what they were experiencing as the storm hit.
When Irma had passed, social media became abuzz with people exchanging information on where supplies were available, and which businesses were open. Several folks who had power invited their Facebook followers who were without electricity to come to their homes and take a hot shower, do laundry, cook a meal, or just relax for a spell in the air conditioning.
One drawback, however, is that those digital devices have made it more important to have backup power supplies, not just generators to run lights and refrigerators, but also external batteries to keep phones operational. It’s why local governments are wise to offer public charging stations in libraries and other facilities to meet post-storm demand. As Irma showed, residents can weather a storm more easily if they can stay connected…